Skip to main content

Full text of "The mercy of Allah / by Hilaire Belloc"

See other formats

F f*il / / S 

> v "* n v - * 





Jesign on this Lover 
Mr. G. K. Chesterton 





That is : 













v MILH; OR " SALT " 83 





X AL-HISAN, OR THE HORSE . . . .209 







That is : 




IN the days of Abd-er- Rahman, who was among the 
wisest and most glorious of the Commanders of 
the Faithful, there resided in the City of Bagdad an 
elderly merchant of such enormous wealth that his 
lightest expressions of opinion caused the markets 
of the Euphrates to fluctuate in the most alarming 

This merchant, whose name was Mahmoud, had a 
brother in the middle ranks of Society, a surgeon by 
profession, and by name El-Hakim. To this brother 
he had frequently expressed a fixed determination to 
leave him no wealth of any kind. " It is my opinion," 
he would say, " that a man s first duty is to his own 
children, and though I have no children myself, I must 
observe the general rule/ 1 He was fond of dilating 
upon this subject whenever he came across his relative, 
and would discover from time to time new and still 
better reasons for the resolution he had arrived at. 
His brother received with great courtesy the prospect 
held out to him by the wealthy merchant ; but one 
day, finding tedious the hundredth repetition of that 
person s pious but somewhat wearisome resolve, said 
to him : 

Mahmoud, though it would be a mean and even 


t ( 


an impious thing to expect an inheritance from you 
to any of my seven sons, yet perhaps you will allow 
these boys to receive from your lips some hint as to 
the manner in which you have accumulated that great 
wealth which you now so deservedly enjoy." 

By all means," said Mahmoud, who was ever ready 
to describe his own talents and success. " Send the 
little fellows round to me to-morrow about the hour 
the public executions take place before the Palace, for 
by that time I shall have breakfasted, and shall be 
ready to receive them." 

The Surgeon, with profuse thanks, left his brother 
and conveyed the good news to the seven lads, who 
stood in order before him with the respect for parents 
customary in the Orient, each placed according to 
his size and running in gradation from eight to sixteen 
years of age. 

Upon the morrow, therefore, the Surgeon s seven 
sons, seated gravely upon crossed legs, formed a semi 
circle at the feet of their revered relative, who, when 
he had watched them humorously and in silence for 
some moments, purring at his great pipe, opened his 
lips and spoke as follows : 

Your father has wondered, my dear nephews, in 
what way the fortune I enjoy has been acquired ; for 
in his own honourable but far from lucrative walk of 
life, sums which are to me but daily trifles appear like 
the ransoms of kings. To you, his numerous family, 
it seems of especial advantage that the road to riches 
should be discovered. Now I will confess to you, my 
dear lads, that I am quite ignorant of any rule or plan 
whereby the perishable goods of this world may be 
rapidly accumulated in the hands of the Faithful. 
Nay, did any such rule exist, I am persuaded that by 

. i 


this time the knowledge of it would be so widely diffused 
as to embrace the whole human race. In which case/ 
he added, puffing meditatively at his pipe, " all would 
cancel out and no result would be achieved ; since a 
great fortune, as I need not inform young people of 
your sagacity, is hardly to be acquired save at the 
expense of others. 

" But though I cannot give you those rules for which 
your father was seeking when he sent you hither, I 
can detail you the steps by which my present affluence 
was achieved ; and each of you, according to his 
intelligence, will appreciate what sort of accidents may 
make for the increase of fortune. When you are 
possessed of this knowledge it will serve you through 
life for recreation and amusement, though I very much 
doubt its making you any richer. For it is not the 
method nor even the opportunity of intelligent acqui 
sition which lead to great riches, but two other things 
combined : one, the unceasing appetite to snatch and 
hold from all and at every season ; the other, that 
profound mystery, the Mercy of God. 

" For Allah, in his inscrutable choice, frowns on 
some and smiles on others. The first he condemns to 
contempt, anxiety, duns, bills, Courts of law, sudden 
changes of residence and even dungeons ; the second 
he gratifies with luxurious vehicles, delicious sherbet 
and enormous houses, such as mine. His will be 

A dear friend of mine, one Moshe*, was a receiver 
of stolen goods in Bosra, until God took him, now 
twenty years ago. He left two sons of equal intelli 
gence and rapacity. The one, after numerous degrada 
tions, died of starvation in Armenia ; the other, of 
no greater skill, is to-day governor of all Algeirah and 


rings the changes at will upon the public purse. 

For a moment the ancient Captain of Industry 
paused with bent head in solemn meditation upon the 
designs of Heaven, then raising his features protested 
that he had too long delayed the story of his life, with 

which he would at once proceed. 

* * * * * 

" As a boy, my dear nephews," began the kindly 
uncle, while his dutiful nephews regarded him with 
round eyes, " I was shy, dirty, ignorant, lazy, and 
wilful. My parents and teachers had but to give me 
an order for me to conceive at once some plan of 
disobeying it. All forms of activity save those con 
nected with dissipation were abhorrent to me. So 
far from reciting with other boys of my age in chorus 
and without fault the verses of the Koran, I grew up 
completely ignorant of that work, the most Solemn 
Name in which I to this day pronounce with an aspirate 
from an unfamiliarity with its aspect upon the written 
page. Yet I am glad to say that I never neglected my 
religious duties, that I prayed with fervour and regu 
larity, and that I had a singular faith in the loving 
kindness of my God. 

I had already reached my seventeenth year when 
my father, who had carefully watched the trend of 
my nature and the use to which I had put my faculties, 
addressed me as follows : 

( Mahmoud, I wish you no ill. I have so far fed 
and clothed you because the Caliph (whom Allah 
preserve !) has caused those who neglect their younger 
offspring to be severely beaten upon the soles of their 
feet. It is now my intention to send you about your 
business. I propose and here my dear father pulled 


out a small purse to give you the smallest sum com 
patible with my own interests, so that if any harm 
befall you, the vigilant officers of the Crown cannot 
ascribe your disaster to my neglect. I request that 
you will walk in any direction you choose so only 
that it be in a straight line away from my doors. If, 
when this your patrimony is spent, you make away with 
yourself I shall hold you to blame ; I shall be better 
pleased to hear that you have sold yourself into slavery 
or in some other way provided for your continued 
sustenance. But what I should like best would be 
never to hear of you again/ With those words my 
father (your grandfather, dear boys), seizing me by 
the shoulders, turned my back to his doors and thrust 
me forth with a hearty kick the better to emphasize 
his meaning. 

" Thus was I launched out in the dawn of manhood 
to try my adventures with the world. 

" I discovered in my pouch as I set out along the 
streets of the city the sum of 100 dinars, with which 
my thoughtful parent had provided me under the 
legal compulsion which he so feelingly described. 
With so large a capital/ said I to myself, I can exist 
for several days, indulge my favourite forms of dissi 
pation, and when they are well spent it will be time 
enough to think of some experiment whereby to replace 
them/ " 

Here the eldest nephew said respectfully and with an 
inclination of the head : " Pray, uncle, what is a 
dinar ? " 

My dear lad," replied the merchant with a merry 
laugh, " I confess that to a man of my position a reply 
to your question is impossible. I could only tell you 
that it is a coin of considerable value to the impover- 


ished, but to men like myself a denomination so inferior 
as to be indistinguishable from all other coins." 

Having so expressed himself the worthy merchant 
resumed the thread of his tale : 

I had, I say, started forward in high spirits to the 
sound of the coins jingling in my pouch, when my 
steps happened to take me to the water-side, where I 
found a ship about to sail for the Persian Gulf. Here/ 
said I to myself, is an excellent opportunity for travel 
ling and for seeing the world. 

The heat of the day was rising. No one was 
about but two watermen, who lay dozing upon the 
bank. I nimbly stepped aboard and hid myself 
behind one of the bales of goods with which the deck 
was packed. When the sun declined and work was 
resumed, the sailors tramped aboard, the sail was 
hoisted, and we started upon our journey. 

" Befriended by the darkness of night I crept out 
quietly from my hiding-place and found a man watch 
ing over the prow, where he was deputed to try the 
depth of the water from time to time with a long pole. 
I affected an air of authority, and told him that the 
Captain had sent me forward to deliver his commands, 
which were that he should give me a flask of wine, 
some fruit, and a cake (for I guessed that like all 
sailors he had in his possession things both lawful and 
unlawful). These I told him I would take to my 
relative the Captain. He left me with the pole for a 
moment and soon returned with the provisions, with 
which I crept back to my hiding-place, and there 
heartily consumed them. 

; During the whole of the next day I lay sleeping 
behind the bales of goods. With the fall of the 
second night I needed a second meal. I dared not 


repeat my first experiment, and lay musing till, hunger 
having sharpened my wits, I hit upon a plan with 
which surely Providence itself must have inspired a 
poor lonely lad thrown in his unaided weakness upon 
a cruel world. 

" I bethought me that the watchman of either 
board would have some provision for the night. I 
remembered a sort of gangway between the high bales 
upon the main deck, which corridor led back far under 
the poop into the stern sheets. It had been so 
designed for the convenience of stowing and unloading, 
affording a passage for the workmen as they handled 
the cargo. I put these two things together in my 
mind (but to God be the glory) and formed of them 
a plan for immediate execution. 

" I crept from my hiding-place and sauntered along 
the dark deck until I came upon the watchman, 
squatting by the rail, and contemplating the stars in 
the moonless sky. He had, as I had suspected, a platter 
the white of which I could just see glimmering against 
the deck beside him. I thought I also discerned a 
gourd of wine. I approached him as one of the crew 
(for they were chance strangers taken on at the wharf). 
We talked in low tones of the girls of Bagdad, of the 
police, of opportunities for theft, and of such other 
topics as are common to the poor, till, naturally, we 
came to wine. He cursed the poor quality of his own, 
in the gourd beside him. I, after some mystery, 
confided to him that I had a stock of excellent wine, 
and, as my friendship for him increased, I made a 
clean breast of it and told him it was in the stern 
sheets, far under the poop deck along the narrow passage 
between the high bales. I offered to go with him and 
fetch it, allowing him, in his eagerness, to go first. 


When he was well engaged in groping aft I turned, 
crept forward again silently and rapidly, picked up 
the loaf and cheese which I found on his platter, as 
also the gourd, and vanished into my hiding-hole. 

I ate my fill though somewhat too hurriedly, 
and remarked how long a time my shipmate was 
spending at searching that empty place. As I heard 
him creeping back at last cursing violently in whispers, 
I was aware of faint dawn in the East, and determined 
that my cruise must end. 

"We were already in the neighbourhood of the sea, 
as I discovered by tasting the water over the side in 
the darkness and discovering it to be brackish. I 
bethought me that my poor comrade had now an 
excellent reason for ferretting me out, that the Cap 
tain also would soon hear of me and that, with day 
light, I should certainly be visited with a bastinado 
or put into chains and sold. I therefore slipped over 
the side (for I was an excellent swimmer) and made 
for the shore. There I lay on a warm beach and watched 
through the reeds the great sail of the ship as it 
slipped down-stream further and further away in the 
growing light. 

" When the sun rose the vessel was out of sight, and 
looking about me I discovered a little village not far 
from the shore inhabited by simple fishermen, but 
containing several houses of some pretension, the 
residences of wealthy merchants who came here from 
Bosra in their moments of leisure to relax themselves 
from the catch-as-catch-can of commerce in that 
neighbouring city. 

" My first action at the opening of the new day was 
to fall upon my knees and add to the ritual prayer 
a humble outpouring of thanks for the benefits I 


had already received and a fervent appeal for guidance. 
That appeal was heard. I rose from my knees full 
of a new-found plan. 

" To one of those wealthier houses which stood 
near the village I at once proceeded and sent in a 
message by a slave to its owner saying that my master, 
a wealthy dealer in carpets, solicited the custom of 
his lordship, and that if the great man would but 
accompany me to the quay I would there show 
him wares well worthy of his attention. 

It so happened (and here was Providence again 
at work) that this merchant had a passion for a par 
ticular sort of carpet which is solely made by the 
inhabitants of El Kzar, for they alone possess the secret, 
which they very zealously guard. The slave, there 
fore, brought me back the message that his master 
would not be at the pains of accompanying me unless 
such wares were present for his inspection. If my 
carpets were those of El Kzar he would willingly inspect 
them, but if they were of any other brand he was 

And let this teach you, my dear nephews, how 
simple are the minds of the rich. 

I was willing enough that the carpets should be 
carpets of El Kzar, or, indeed, of any other place under 
heaven, for all were at my choice. 

I hastened, therefore, to send back a further 
message that by a curious coincidence we had upon 
this occasion nothing else in stock but Kzaran carpets, 
and begged the slave to emphasize this important 
point to his master. 

His reply was to twist his right hand, palm upwards, 
with a strange smile. I pulled out my purse, showed 
him the shining dinars, and asked him whether he 


would rather have one now for his fee or five on the 
completion of the transaction ? With glistening 
eyes and even (as I thought) a pathetic gratitude 
the slave leapt at the latter offer. 

" And let this teach you, my dear nephews, how 
simple are the minds of the poor. 

" He hastened off to deliver my message. 

" Within a few moments the master of the house 
appeared in great haste, and all of a fever bade me 
lead him to the appointed spot." 

At this moment the merchant paused and with 
reverie and reminiscence in his eye remained silent for 
at least that space of time in which a dexterous pick 
pocket may gingerly withdraw a purse from the sleeve 
of a Holy Man. The second nephew thought the 
opportunity arrived to suggest a doubt which had 
been vexing his young mind. He said with an 
obeisance : 

" Venerable uncle, we have listened to the beginnings 
of your career with admiration and respect, but we 
are more perplexed than ever to discover how such 
beginnings could have led to such an end. For you 
appear to us as yet only to have followed that path 
which leads to the torturers and the bow-strings." 

" Such," replied his uncle, with a look of singular 
affection, " is the general opinion entertained of all 
very wealthy men in the first step of their careers ; 
but I hope that the sequel will teach you and your 
clever little brothers how wrongly informed are the 

As the Merchant Mahmoud pronounced these words 
the Call to Prayer was heard from a neighbouring 
tower, and he hurriedly concluded : 

" My dear nephews, we are called to prayer. I 


will cease here to speak and will continue to-morrow 
the story of Myself and Providence." 

Upon hearing these words his seven nephews rose 
together, and crossed their arms ; following which 
gesture, with three deep bows performed as they 
walked backwards toward the curtains of the magni 
ficent apartment, they left their uncle s presence. 

" You will remember, my dear nephews," said the 
Merchant Mahmoud when the lads were once more 
assembled in a half-circle before him with crossed legs 
and attentive countenances, " that you left me hurrying 
with the collector of Kzaran carpets towards the quay 
where he should enjoy the sight of the merchandise. 
This merchant was reputed among the people of the 
place to be of a singularly cunning and secretive tem 
perament, a character which (you may think it strange !) 
they admired as though it were the summit of human 
wisdom. I confess that I found him, in the matter 
of Kzaran carpets at least, very different from his 
reputation. A more garrulous old gentleman never 
trod this earth. He was in a perpetual stammer of 
excitement, and though I was careful to lead him by 
the most roundabout roads that he might have time 
to cool his ardour, the delay did but seem to increase it. 

" I implore you, sir/ he said at last, as one who 
could no longer restrain some violent passion, I 
implore you, pay no attention to others in this place 
who may have attempted to forestall me in the matter 
of your very valuable cargo. Your honour is, I know, 
sufficient in the matter. ... I am confident you will 
give me a free market. Also, they know nothing of 
Kzaran carpets in these parts : they are mere buyers 
and sellers . . . and on what a margin ! Let me tell 


you in your ear that while many men in this place 
carry on the appearance of riches, most are indebted 
to Parsees in the capital. I alone am in an indepen 
dent position and (here he whispered) I can well 
reward you privately and in your own pocket for any 
favour you may show me. 

" Seeing him so eager, I affected a certain hesita 
tion and embarrassment, and at last confessed that 
I had been approached by a local merchant whose 
name I was forbidden to mention and who had very 
kindly sent me as a present by a slave the sum of 1,000 
dinars. To this he had attached no conditions, but 
he had also, quite independently, sent word that he 
had himself orders for carpets which he was bound to 
fulfil. His profit (he had said), if I would give him 
a first choice, would be so considerable that he would 
be very ready to offer me a handsome commission on 
the completion of the bargain ; quite apart from the 
1,000 dinars which were but a little present from one 
man to another. This thousand dinars/ I added, 
now in my possession, I have accepted. A present 
is a graceful act and can be taken with a clean con 
science. But the commission is another matter. I 
must consider beyond everything the interests of my 
master. I shall not mention the offer made to me (for 
with all his confidence in me he is himself a business 
man and might misunderstand my position), but I 
shall think it my duty to give him no advice save to 
sell to the highest bidder/ 

" It is I ! shouted the aged connoisseur eagerly, 
it is I who will prove the highest bidder ! Nay, my 
dear fellow, since such bargains are often concluded in 
private, would it not be better to tell your master 
forthwith that no possible competitor can stand against 


me in this place ? Let him first discover the sum 
offered by my rival and I give you leave to suggest 
a sum larger by one-tenth, which shall decide his 
judgment. Meanwhile, he added, two thousand 
dinars are but a small present for one in your position, 
and I shall willingly joyfully propose to give you 
that sum, not for a moment on account of the service 
which I am certain you design to do me, but purely 
as an expression of my esteem. 

" His excitement had now so risen that I fear his 
judgment was lost. Already he saw before him in 
his mind s eye a pile of the noblest Kzaran carpets, all 
ready for the caravan. Already he saw a rival calmly 
acquiring them on the distant wharf, the witnesses 
placing their seals, the words of completion. 

" He trembled as again he urged on me the little 
gift, the little personal gift, the trifling gift of 2,000 

" Sir, said I in reply, a little stiffly, I am not 
accustomed to take secret commissions under any 
disguise. My duty is clear : if I cannot receive a firm 
offer superior to that already made me, and that 
backed with proof that you are indeed, as you say, the 
most solid man in the place then I must close with 
my first client. If indeed I were certain of an immediate 
payment in a larger sum I would accept your proposal. 
But how can I know anything of this place ? The 
thousand dinars of which I spoke are coined and in a 
wallet ; I have them safe. With all the respect due 
to your age, I have no information upon your credit 
in this town. And I confess, I added in another tone, 
that I am acquainted with your rival s position, which 
is perhaps more solid than you think. I confess I 
think it would be simpler and to the better interest 


of our house if I were to go straight to him now and 
have done with it. 

" As I spoke thus the old man lost all reason. It 
was piteous to see one of his age and venerable hairs 
dancing and spluttering with excitement. He shook 
his fists in the air, he called to Heaven in shrill tones, 
he betrayed all the frenzy of the collector. He con 
trasted the mercantile motives of the unknown com 
petitor with his own passion for Pure Art. He called 
Heaven to witness to the reality of his wealth, and at 
last in a sort of fury tore from his garments the jewels 
which ornamented them, thrust into my hand all the 
cash upon his person (it was in a leather bag, and 
amounted altogether to no more than 500 dinars), 
added to this a brooch of gold, which he dragged 
from his scarf, and said that if this instalment were 
not a sufficient proof of his good faith and credit he 
knew not how to move me. 

" I shrugged my shoulders and suggested that 
instead of making so violent a protestation and at 
such risk to his fortune he should go back soberly to 
his house and return with an instrument of credit 
and two witnesses (as the law demands), while I 
awaited him patiently at that spot. I, at least, was 
in no haste and would honourably abide his return. 
He was off at a speed which I should never have 
thought possible at his age. 

" I waited until he had turned the corner of a 
distant hedge of prickly pears, and not until he was 
quite out of sight did I gather the jewels, the coins, and 
the precious ornaments which in his haste he had 
thrown at my feet, and very rapidly betake my 
self in the opposite direction. 

" Never was the Mercy of Allah more evidently 


extended. The plain was naked outside the town, the 
river perhaps a mile distant ; my plight, as it might 
appear, desperate. I pinned the gold brooch to my 
cloak, I distributed the jewels openly upon various 
parts of my person, and I proceeded at a smart pace 
over the open plain towards the river. It was with 
the greatest joy that I found upon its bank two fisher 
men about to set sail and proceed down-stream to 
sea. Their presence inspired me with a plan for escape. 

" I chatted negligently with them (still keeping 
one eye upon the distant house of my aged but 
excitable friend). At last with a light laugh I offered 
one of them a piece of gold, saying that 1 should be 
pleased to try the novel experience of a little cruise. 
The fisherman, who was quite unacquainted with so 
much wealth, and seemed somewhat awestruck, gave 
me some grand title or other, and promised me very 
good sport with the fish and a novel entertainment. 
But even as he and his companion pushed out from 
shore I turned in my seat on the deck and perceived in 
the plain a rising dust which betrayed the approach 
of the merchant with his witnesses and a company of his 

" Suddenly changing my expression from one of 
pleased though wearied expectancy to one of acute 
alarm, I shouted to my new companions : Push away 
for your lives and stretch your sail to its utmost ! 
These are the Commissioners sent by the Caliph to 
re-assess and tax all fishing-boats upon a new valua 
tion ! Already had they seized three upon the beach 
when I left and found you here ! 

At these words the worthy fellows were inspired 
by a fear even greater than my own. They manfully 
pushed into the swiftest part of the current, and, 



though a smart breeze was blowing, hoisted every 
inch of the sail, so that the boat ran with her gunwale 
upon the very edge of the water and was indeed dan 
gerously pressed. But I had the satisfaction of seeing 
the merchant and his retinue vainly descending the 
river-bank, at perhaps one-half our speed, calling down 
curses upon us, threatening with their fists, shouting 
their public titles of authority, their menaces of the 
law, and in every way confirming my excellent pair 
of fishermen in the story I had told them. 

" It was a pleasant thing to loll on deck under the 
heat of the day, toying with the valuable ornaments 
I had so recently acquired and lazily watching my 
companions as they sweated at the halyards, or alter 
natively glancing along towards the shore at the little 
group of disappointed people which fell so rapidly 
behind us as we bowled down the tide. Soon their 
features were no longer plain, then their figures could 
scarcely be distinguished. The last impression con 
veyed to me was of some little very distant thing, 
stamping with impotent rage and shaking wild arms 
against the sky. I could not but deplore so grievous 
a lapse in dignity in one so venerable. 

" When we were well away from the neighbourhood 
of the city I asked the fishermen whither they were 
bound ; to which they answered that their business 
was only to cruise about outside and fish during the 
night, returning at dawn with their catch. Would 
it not be better/ I suggested, seeing that these 
rapacious fellows will hang about for a day or so, to 
carry me to some town of your acquaintance along the 
coast where the reigning powers do not suffer from the 
tyranny of Bagdad ? For my part I am free to travel 
where I will, and the prospect of a change pleases me. 

< i 


I shall be happy/ said I, to reward the sacrifice of 
your catch with fifty dinars. 

" At the prospect of much further wealth the fisher 
men were at once convinced : they sang in the light 
ness of their hearts, and for three cays and three 
nights we sped down the Gulf, passing bleak mountains 
and deserted rocky promontories, until upon the 
fourth day we came to a town the like of which I 
had never seen. 

" Shall we land here ? said I. 

" No/ said the fishermen, for it is in a manner 
within the Caliph s dominions, and perhaps that 
accursed tax of which you spoke will be levied here 

" You know better than I/ replied I thoughtfully, 
standing for a moment in affected perplexity. Let 
me, however, land in your little boat. I have a 
passion for new places. I will come out to you again 
after the hour of the mid-day prayers, while you stand 
in the offing/ 

" To this arrangement they readily consented. I 
rowed to the land, and when I had reached the shore 
I was pleased to see my fearful hosts quite three miles 
out upon the hot and shimmering sea. Gazing at 
them, I hope with charity, and certainly with interest, 
I pushed the little boat adrift (for I had no reason to 
return to those poor people) and made my way inland. 
I disposed of my jewellery at prices neither low nor 
high with local merchants. I preserved the old fellow s 
golden brooch, which I imagined (for I am a trifle 
weak and superstitious) might bring me good fortune, 
and when all my transactions were accomplished I 
counted my total capital, and found myself in posses 
sion of no less than 1,500 dinars. The cold of the 


evening had come by the time my accounts were 
settled and the strings of my pouch were drawn. I set 
myself under an arbour where a delicious fountain 
played in the light of the setting sun, which shone over 
the waters of the sea, and drinking some local beverage 
the name of which I knew not, but the taste and effect 
of which were equally pleasing, I reflected upon my 
increase of fortune. 

" You left home, Mahmoud, said I to myself, 
with one hundred dinars, of which your excellent and 
careful father deprived himself rather than see you 
face the world unarmed, or himself receive the bastinado. 
You have been gone from home a week ; you are 
perhaps some 800 miles from your native city ; your 
capital has been multiplied fifteen-fold, and so far you 
may look with an eager courage towards the further 
adventures of your life, for very clearly the Mercy of 
Allah is upon you/ 

At this moment a nasal hooting from the neighbour 
ing turret warned the company to turn their thoughts 
to heaven. The boys, who had sat fascinated by their 
uncle s recital, knew that the end of their entertain 
ment had come. The third son of the Surgeon was 
therefore impatient to exclaim (as he hurriedly did) : 
" But, dear uncle, though we see that a certain chance 
favoured you, and not only your native talents, yet 
we do not perceive how all this led to any main road 
to fortune/ 

My boy," said the Merchant Mahmoud, pensively 
stroking his beard and gazing vacuously over the heads 
of the youngsters, " I do not pretend to unfold you 
any such plan. Have I not told you that did such a 
plan exist all would be in possession of it ? I am but 
retailing you in my humble fashion the steps by which 


one merchant in this, city has been raised by the 
Infinite Goodness of the Merciful (His name be adored !) 
from poverty to riches. . . . But the call for prayer 
has already been heard and we must part. Upon this 
same day of next week, shortly after the last of the 
public executions has been bungled, you shall again 
come and hear me recite the next chapter of my varied 


That is : % 




A WEEK later, at the hour of Public Executions 
and Beheadings, the seven boys were again 
assembled cross-legged at the feet of their revered 
uncle, who, when he had refreshed them with cold 
water, and himself with a curious concoction of fer 
mented barley, addressed them as follows : 

" You will remember, my lads, how I was left cut 
off from my dear home and from all companions, in a 
strange country, and with no more than 1,500 dinars 
with which to face the world. This sum may seem 
to you large, but I can assure you that to the opera 
tions of commerce (and here the merchant yawned) 
it is but a drop in the ocean ; and I had already so 
far advanced during one brief week in my character 
of Financier that I gloomily considered how small a 
sum that 1,500 was wherewith to meet the cunning, 
the gluttony, and the avarice of this great world. But 
a brief sleep (which I took under a Baobab tree to save 
the cost of lodging) refreshed at once my body and my 
intelligence, and with the next morning I was ready 
to meet the world." 

Here the merchant coughed slightly, and addressing 
his nephews said : You have doubtless been in 
structed at school upon the nature of the Baobab ? 
We have," replied his nephews, and they recited 



in chorus the description which they had been taught 
by heart from the text-books of their Academy. 

I am pleased," replied their uncle, smiling, " to dis 
cover you thus informed. You will appreciate how 
ample a roof this singular vegetable affords. 

Well, I proceeded under the morning sun through 
a pleasantly wooded and rising country, considering 
by what contrivance of usury or deceit I might next 
increase my capital, when I saw in the distance the 
groves and white buildings of an unwalled town, to 
which (since large places, especially if they are not war 
like, furnish the best field for the enterprise of a Captain 
of Industry) I proceeded ; . . . and there, by the Mercy 
of Allah, there befell me as singular an adventure as 
perhaps ever has fallen to the lot of man. 

" I had not taken up my place in the local caravan 
serai for more than an hour I had met no likely fool, 
and my plans for the future were still vague in my 
head when an old gentleman of great dignity, followed 
by an obsequious officer and no less than six Ethiopian 
slaves, approached me with deep reverence, and prof- 
f erring me a leathern pouch, of a foreign kind, the like 
of which I had never seen before, asked me whether 
I were not the young man who had inadvertently left 
it upon a prayer-stone at a shrine outside the city. 

" I seized the pouch with an eager air, held it up 
in transports of joy, and kissing it again and again 
said, Oh ! my benefactor ! How can I sufficiently 
thank you ! It is my father s last gift to me and is 
all my viaticum as well ! with which I fell to kissing 
and fondling it again, pressing it to my heart and so 
discovered it to be filled with coins as indeed I had 
suspected it to be. 

" Into so active an emotion had I roused myself 


that my eyes filled with tears, and the good old man 
himself was greatly affected. I must warn you, 
young stranger, he said paternally, against this 
thoughtlessness so common in youth ! A great loss 
indeed had it been for you, if we had not had the good 
fortune to recover your property. 

" You may imagine my confusion, my dear nephews, 
at finding that I had been guilty of so intolerable a 
fault. I blushed with confusion ; I most heartily 
thanked the old gentleman, not for his integrity (which 
it would have been insulting to mention to one of his 
great wealth) but for the pains he had taken to seek 
out a careless young man and to prevent his suffering 

" Nay, said that aged gentleman to me with a 
low and pleasant laugh, you must not thank me. 
Perhaps had I myself come upon the treasure I might 
have thought it too insignificant to restore. But you 
must know that I am the Chief Magistrate of this city 
and that last evening my officer noticed from some 
distance a young man, apparently a stranger to this 
city, whom he describes as of your height and features, 
rise from the prayer-stone, but leave behind him some 
object which, in the gathering dusk, he could not 
.distinguish. On his approach he found it was this 
purse of yours which some boys had already found 
and were quarrelling over, when he took it from them. 
He brought it to me with some description of your 
person : I thought you might well be at this caravan 
serai and brought it with me : I had the pleasure 
of hearing my officer, who now accompanies me, recog 
nize you as we approached. That functionary bowed 
to me and I to him most ceremoniously, and as I did 
so I was rapidly revolving in my head what I had 


better do if the real owner should appear. I was torn 
between two plans : whether to denounce him as a 
thief before he could speak, or to run off at top speed. 
This preoccupation I dismissed lest the anxiety of 
it should appear upon my face. 

" I again thanked this good old man most warmly, 
and we entered into a familiar conversation. What 
was my delight at the close of it when he bade me 
without ceremony accept of his hospitality and come 
home to take a meal with him in his palace. I was 
eager for further adventures, and accompanied him 
with the greatest joy. 

" Reclining at table, where there was served (as 
I need hardly inform my dear nephews) lamb stuffed 
with pistachio nuts, the old man asked me whence I 
had come, what was my trade, and whither I was 

" I answered (as I thought, prudently) that I had 
come from Aleppo, that I had been entrusted by my 
father with the sum in the purse he had so kindly 
restored to me, in order to purchase pearls, and that 
when the purchase was completed I had instructions 
to sell them in India in a market where my father 
was assured that pearls were rare and fetched the 
highest prices. 

" * This is indeed well found ! exclaimed the old 
man, with enthusiasm. I am myself seeking for some 
one to whom I may sell a magnificent collection of 
pearls inherited from my great-grandmother, an Indian 
Begum. The old woman/ he added nonchalantly 
enough, was a miser ; she kept the drops higgledy- 
piggledy in an old cedarwood box, and I confess myself 
quite ignorant of their value. Moreover, as I have 
taken a liking to you, I shall let you fix your own price, 


for I should much like to remember when my time 
comes that I had helped a friendless man in his first 
step to fortune ; only, I am a little ashamed to appear to 
be making money out of an heirloom ! 

" While the old gentleman so spoke I was rapidly 
revolving in my mind what motive he could have for 
such an affectation of indifference to wealth, when I 
recollected that he was the Chief Magistrate of the city, 
and immediately concluded that these pearls, being 
the property of local people, and obtained by him for 
nothing by way of bribes and other legal channels, 
he would both desire to have them sold at a distance 
and would let them go cheap. 

" Nay/ continued he, seeing that I hesitated as 
these thoughts occurred to me, I will take no denial. 
For me it is but a mere riddance, and for you a most 
excellent bargain. Come, I trust your honest face 
and youthful candour. You shall take them at your 
own price ! And I will even advise you of the city 
of India where you will find your best market. 

" Put thus, the offer, I will confess, attracted me ; 
but I had already learned the wickedness of mankind 
(though not as yet, I am glad to say, my dear nephews, 
at my own expense), and I said that I would at least 
so far meet him as to take the jewels to a local mer 
chant, invent some tale, as though they were my 
own, and see what sum might be offered for them. 
Only when I thus had some measure of their value 
could I honourably make an offer. I continued at 
some length in this strain, expressing a humble inability 
to judge, and the fear lest my capital might not be 
sufficient (which he pooh-poohed). I stipulated, for a 
reason you will soon perceive, that a slave of his 
should accompany me if only as a matter of routine 


for (said I) I was very jealous of my honour. He 
agreed, though he was good enough to call it a pure 

I left the aged magistrate with many thanks and, 
accompanied by the slave, proceeded with the pearls 
to the jewel merchants quarter in the Bazaar. I 
stopped before one of the richest and most reputed 
booths, and spreading the pearls before the merchant 
told him that I was compelled to sell these under order 
from authority as the end of a family dispute, to pay 
the dowry of my sister ; that I therefore was in haste 
to settle and would take the least price he might choose 
to mention within reason. I was, said I, wholly in 
his hands. It was urgent for me that the bargain 
should be quickly completed, but before I could receive 
his cash I must hear the lowest figure he would name. 

While I thus spoke the slave stood respectfully 
behind me and listened to our conversation. The jewel 
merchant said that no class of merchandise was more 
distasteful to him than pearls ; there was at this 
moment no market for them. It was impossible to 
purchase them save properly set and in regular sizes ; 
and finally it was well known that pearls were the 
most unlucky of gems. It was quite impossible for 
him to offer more than 10,000 dinars, and even so he 
would doubtless be. the loser by the transaction. 

When I heard this I rapidly wrote upon a slip of 
paper the following words : 

MY LORD, The chief merchant in this city 
estimates your jewels at 10,000 dinars. I cannot, alas, 
provide that sum, and therefore I cannot honestly 
make an offer myself as I had hoped ; if you desire 
to have them sold here I will faithfully execute your 


commission, but if you prefer that I should return 
them to you send me word. Meanwhile, I will still 
bargain here awaiting your reply. 

" I sent this note by the slave and begged him to 
give it to his master and to bring me an answer. The 
slave went off, and when I judged him to be well out 
of hearing I turned and said to the merchant, sighing : 
Well, since you offer no more I must take what you 
offer ; the slave whom you saw me despatch carried 
the news to my family ; I burn when I think of how 
their scorn will mock my humiliation. I therefore said 
nothing true of the price. Indeed, I have set it down 
in that note as something much higher. But I sub 
mit, for, as I told you, I am pressed. Come, count me 
the money, and I will away. 

" The merchant, after I had handed over the pearls, 
counted me the money into yet another large leathern 
bag, which I shouldered, and with rapid steps bore 
out of the Bazaar and soon out of the town itself, 
by a gate called the Bab-el- Jaffur, that is, the gate 
of innocence. 

" Beyond the town walls was a long roll of dusty 
sloping land set here and there with dusty stunted 
bushes and having beyond it a high range of desert 
hills. A track led roughly rising across it, away 
from the town. 

" I followed this track for one hour and then sat 
down (for my new fortune was heavy) and rested. 

As I thought it probable that my good old friend 
himself would return speedily with his slave to the 
Bazaar, and as the complication of the affair might 
embroil me, I hid during the remainder of the day 
squeezed in a jackal s earth beneath a bank. Before 


nightfall I ventured out and gazed about me, leaving 
my original pouch, my windfall and my big leathern 
bag of 10,000 dinars in the jackal s earth while I 
surveyed the track. 

" It was the hour I love above all others. 

" The sun had just set beyond the distant ocean 
towards which my face was turned, and between me 
and which, upon the plain below for I had come to 
the rise of the mountain side lay the beautiful city 
I had just left. The fragrant smoke of cedar wood 
rose from some of its roofs as the evening fell. There 
was still hanging in the air the coloured dust of even 
ing above the roads of entry, and there came faintly 
through the distance the cry of the muezzin. 

" I was not so entranced by the natural beauty of 
the scene as to neglect the duty which this sound 
recalled. I fell immediately upon my knees and was 
careful to add to the accustomed prayers of that 
hour my heart-felt thanks for the Guidance and the 
Grace which had so singularly increased my fortunes 
in the last few hours. 

" As I rose from these devotions I heard upon my 
right a low wailing sound and was astonished to dis 
cover there, seated hopelessly beneath a small shrub 
and waving his hands in grief, a young man of much 
my own height and appearance : but I flatter myself 
that not even in my most careful assumpt ons of 
innocence have I ever worn such a booby face. 

" He was swaying slowly from side to side, and as 
he did so moaning a ceaseless plaint, the words of 
which I caught and which touched me to the heart. 
Over and over again he recited his irreparable loss. 
He had but that small sum ! It was his patrimony ! 
His sole security ! How should he answer for it ? 


who should now support him ? or what should he do ? 

" So he wailed to himself in miserable monotone till 
I could bear it no longer, for I saw that I had by a 
singular coincidence come upon that poor young man 
whose pouch I had been given in error by the magis 
trate of the city. 

" I bowed before him. He noticed me listlessly 
enough and asked me what I would. I told him I 
thought I could give him comfort. Was it not he, 
said I, who had left a certain pouch (I carefully 
described it) containing sundry coins upon a prayer- 
stone outside the city at this very same sunset hour 
of the day before ? His despair was succeeded by a 
startling eagerness. He leapt to his feet, seized my 
arm, rose feverishly and implored me to tell him 

" Alas, I said, what I have to tell you is but 
little ! I fear to raise your hopes too high but 
at any rate I can put you upon the track of your 

Sir/ said he, resuming his hopeless tone for a 
moment, I have already done my best. I went to 
the Chief Magistrate of the city to claim it and was 
met by an officer of his who told me that the purse had 
already been delivered to its owner, suspected my 
claim and bade me return. But how shall I prove 
that it is mine, or how, indeed, receive it, since the 
abominable _ thief who took possession of it must by 
now be already far away ? 

You do him an injustice/ said I. It is precisely 
of him whom you uncharitably call a thief that I would 
speak to you. You think that he is far away, whereas 
he is really at your hand whenever you choose to act, 
for this is the message that I bring you. He awaits 



you even now, and if you will present yourself to him 
he will restore your property. 

How can you know this ? said the young man, 
gazing at me doubtfully. By what coincidence have 
you any knowledge of the affair ? 

It is simple enough/ said I. This person to 
whom your purse was given, and I, were in the same 
inn. We fell to talking of our adventures along the 
road, for he also was a stranger, and he told me the 
singular tale how he had recovered from the authorities 
a purse which he honestly thought his own, for it was 
very like one which he himself possessed ; but that 
on finding his own purse later on in his wallet he was 
overwhelmed with regret at the thought of the loss 
he had occasioned ; at the same time he made me his 
confidant, telling me that he intended to restore it 
this very evening at sunset to the authorities and 
that any one claiming it after that hour and proving 
it was his could recover it at the public offices. But he 
warned me of one thing : the officers (he told me) were 
convinced (from what indication I know not, perhaps 
from the presence of something in the purse, or per 
haps from something they had heard) that the owner 
dealt in pearls. 

Here the young man interrupted me, and assured 
me he had never bought or sold pearls in his life, nor 
thought of doing so. 

" I answered that no doubt this was so. But that 
when the authorities had a whim it was well to humour 
them. He would therefore do well to approach the 
officer who guarded the gate of the Chief Magistrate s 
house, with the simple words, I am the Seller of 
Pearls/ on hearing which his path would be made 
smooth for him, and he would receive his belongings. 


" The young man thanked me heartily ; he even 
warmly embraced me for the good news I had given 
him, and felt, I fear, that his purse and his small for 
tune were already restored to him. It was a gallant 
sight to see him in the last of the light swinging down 
the mountain side with a new life in him, and I sincerely 
regretted from my heart the necessity under which I 
was to imperil his liberty and life. But you will agree 
with me, my dear nephews, that I could not possibly 
afford to have him at large. 

" When he had gone and when it was fully night, 
there being no moon and only the stars in the warm 
dark sky, I rapidly took my burdens from their hiding- 
place and proceeded, though with some difficulty, up 
the mountain side, staggering under such a weight, 
and deviating from the track so that there should be 
less chance of finding myself interrupted. 

" I slept for a few hours. I awoke at dawn. I 
counted my total fortune, and found that it was just 
about 12,000 dinars, the most of it in silver. 

Carefully concealing it again, I left its hiding-place 
and glided round the mountain until I came to a place 
where a new track began to appear, which led to a 
neighbouring village. Here I bought an ass, and 
returning with it to my hiding-place and setting my 
treasure upon it I went off at random to spend the day 
in travelling as rapidly as I might away from the 
neighbourhood by the most deserted regions. 

I came, a little before sunset, upon a hermit s cave, 
where I was hospitably entertained and the tenant 
of which refused all reward, asking me only to pray 
for him, as he was certain that the prayers of youth 
and innocence would merit him a high place in Heaven. 

" With this holy man I remained for some four or 


five days, passing my time at leisure in his retreat 
among the mountains, and feeding my donkey upon the 
dried grasses which I brought in by armfuls at dusk 
from the woodlands. Upon the fifth day of this 
concealment the hermit came in pensive and sad, and 
said to me : 

My son, with every day the wickness of this 
world increases, and the judgment of God will surely 
fall upon it in a devastating fire ! I have but just 
heard that the Chief Magistrate of our capital city, 
using as a dupe an innocent stranger, sold to one of the 
great jewellers of the place for no less than 10,000 
dinars a quantity of pearls, every one of which now 
turns out to be false and valueless ! Nay, I am told 
that the largest are made of nothing but wax ! And, 
what is worse, not content with this first wickedness, 
the magistrate under the plea that the young stranger 
had disappeared confiscated the gems again and had 
the poor merchant most severely beaten ! But 
worse and worse ! the poor youth having innocently 
returned that very night to the city, was seized by 
the guard and beheaded. Ya, ya/ said the good old 
man, throwing up his hands, the days increase, and 
their evil increases with them ! 

At this moment the hoarse and discordant voice of the 
Public Crier croaked its first note from the neighbour 
ing turret, and the nephews, who had sat enraptured 
at their uncle s tale, knew that it was time to disperse. 
The eldest brother therefore said : 

" O uncle ; before we go let me express the thanks 
of all of us for your enrapturing story. But let me also 
express our bewilderment at the absence of all plan 
in your singular adventures. For though we have 
listened minutely to all you have said, we cannot dis- 


cover what art you showed in the achievement of any 
purpose. For instance, how could you know that the 
pearls were false ? 

" I did not know it, my dear nephew," replied the 
great Merchant with beautiful simplicity, and the 
whole was the Mercy of Allah ! . . . But come, the 
hour of prayer is announced, and we must, following 
the invariable custom of the Faithful, make yet another 
joint in my singular tale. Come, therefore, on this day 
week, shortly after the last of the public executions of 
the vulgar, and I will tell you of my further fortunes : 
for you must understand that the 12,000 dinars of 
which my story now leaves me possessed are " and 
here the honest old man yawned again and waved 
his hand " but a flea-bite to a man like me." 

His seven little nephews bowed repeatedly, and, 
walking backwards without a trip, disappeared through 
the costly tapestries of their uncle s apartments. 


That is: 




ON the appointed day of the next week, when, 
with the hour of public executions, the noon 
day amusements of the city come to an end, and the 
citizens betake themselves to the early afternoon s 
repose, the seven boys were once more seated in the 
presence of their uncle, whom they discovered in a 
radiant humour. 

He welcomed them so warmly that they imagined for 
a moment he might be upon the point of offering them 
sherbet, sweetmeats, or even money ; they were unde 
ceived, however, when the excellent but extremely 
wealthy old man, drawing his purse lovingly through 
his fingers, ordered to have poured out for each of 
them by a slave a further draught of delicious cold 
water, put himself at his ease for a long story, and 
resumed his tale : 

" You will remember, my delightful nephews/ he 
said, " how I found myself in the hermit s hut without 
a friend in the world, and with a capital of no more 
than twelve thousand dinars which I had carried 
thither in a sack upon donkey- back. Indeed, it was 
entirely due to the Mercy of Allah that my small 
capital was even as large as it was : for had the merchant 
in the bazaar discovered the pearls to be false he would 
not only have offered me far less but might possibly, 
after having disposed of the pearls, have given me over 



to the police. As it was, Heaven had been kind to me, 
though not bountiful, and I still had to bethink me 
what to do next if I desired to increase my little 

" Taking leave, therefore, of the good hermit, I 
pressed into his hand a small brass coin the super 
scription of which was unknown to me and which I 
therefore feared I might have some difficulty in passing. 
I assured my kind host that it was a coin of the second 
Caliph Omar and of value very far superior to any 
modern gold piece of a similar size. As the hermit, 
like many other saintly men, was ignorant of letters, 
his gratitude knew no bounds. He dismissed me with 
a blessing so long and complicated that I cannot but 
ascribe to it some part of the good fortune which next 
befell me. 

" For you must know that when, after laying in 
stores at a neighbouring village, I had driven my donkey 
forward for nearly a week over barren and uninhabited 
mountains, and when I had nearly exhausted my pro 
vision of dried cakes and wine (a beverage which our 
religion allows us to consume when no one is by), I was 
delighted to come upon a fertile valley entirely closed in 
by high, precipitous cliffs save at one issue, where a 
rough track led from this enchanted region to the outer 
world. In this valley I discovered, to my astonish 
ment, manners to be so primitive or intelligence so low 
that the whole art of money-dealing was ignored by the 
inhabitants and by the very Governors themselves. 

"The King (who, I am glad to say, was of the Faithful) 
had, indeed, promulgated laws against certain forms of 
fraud which he imagined to be denounced in the Koran ; 
but these were of so infantile a character that a man of 
judgment could very easily avoid them in any plans he 


might frame for the people s betterment and his own. 
The population consisted entirely of soldiers and rustics, 
among all of whom not one could be discovered capable 
of calculating with justice a compound interest for 
ten years. 

" Under these circumstances my only difficulty lay 
in choosing what form my first enterprise should take. 
After a little thought I decided that what we call 
in Bagdad an Amalgamation of Competing Interests 
would be no bad beginning. 

I began with due caution by investing a couple of 
thousand dinars in the merchandise of a potter who had 
recently died and whose widow needed ready cash to 
satisfy the sacred demands of the dead. She spent the 
money in the ornamentation of his tomb, with which 
unproductive expenditure the foolish woman was in no 
small degree concerned." 

Here the eldest of the nephews interrupted Mah- 
moud to ask, most respectfully, why with a capital of 
twelve thousand dinars he had used but two, and why 
he had begun his experiment upon the petty business 
of a poor widow. 

My son," said his uncle affectionately, " you do 
well to ask these questions. They show a reasoned 
interest in the great art of Getting. Well then, as to 
the smallness of my beginning, it was, I hope, due to 
humility. For ostentation is hateful. But a good deed 
is never thrown away and how useful I found this 
reserve of ten thousand dinars (which I had in my 
meekness kept aside) you shall soon learn. 

As to why I began operations in the kiln of this 
poor widow, it was because I have ever loved the little 
ones of this world and aided them to my best endeavour. 
This charitable action also turned out to be wise, as 


such actions often do ; for I could thus proceed at first 
unnoticed and begin my new adventures without excit 
ing any embarrassing attention. 

" I continued to live in the same small hut I had 
hired on my arrival, under the floor of which I kept 
my modest capital ; and I put it about, as modesty 
demanded, that I was almost destitute. 

" As it was indifferent to me for the moment whether 
I obtained a return upon this paltry investment or no, I 
was able to sell my wares at very much the same sum 
as they had cost me, and as I had bought the whole 
stock cheap, that sum was less than the cost of manu 
facture. There was a considerable store of pipkins in 
the old sheds, and while I sold them off at charitable 
rates (very disconcerting to other merchants), I had 
time to consider my next step. 

" Upon this next step I soon determined. When, 
with due delay, my original stock of pipkins had been 
sold, I purchased a small consignment of clay, I relit the 
fires in the kiln, I hired a couple of starving potters, and 
I began to manufacture. 

" The fame of my very cheap pipkins had spread, as 
was but natural, and secured me an increasing number 
of customers for my newly made wares. But I thought 
it wrong to debauch the peasants by selling them their 
pots under cost price any longer. I was constrained 
by the plainest rule of duty to raise my prices to the 
cost of manufacture though no more, keeping Justice 
as my guiding star. For, depend upon it, my dear 
nephews, in business as in every other walk of life an 
exact rectitude alone can lead us to the most dazzling 

" This price of mine was still lower than that of all 
the other pipkin-makers, who had been accustomed from 


immemorial time to the base idea of profit, and were 
in a perpetual surmise what secret powers I had to per 
mit me such quotations. But I made no mystery of 
the affair. I allowed all my friends to visit my simple 
factory and I explained to their satisfaction how organ 
ization and a close attention to costings were sufficient 
to account for my prosperity. 

Still, as my sales continued to grow, new doubts 
arose, and with them, I am glad to say, new respect for 
my skill in affairs. 

The simple folk wondered by what art I had con 
trived so difficult a financial operation, but as it was 
traditional among them that one who sold goods cheap 
was a benefactor to the community, my action was 
lauded, my fame spread, and the number of my cus 
tomers continually increased. 

You will not be slow to perceive, my dear boys, 
that my competitors in the bazaar, being compelled to 
compete with my ruinous prices, were all embarrassed, 
and that the less attentive or privileged soon began to 
fall into financial difficulties, the first of course being 
those who were the most renowned among these sim 
pletons for their cunning, their silence, their lying, 
and their commercial skill in general. These, as they 
were perpetually trying new combinations to discover 
or to defeat my supposed schemes, were an easy prey. 
Even the straightforward fellows who knew of no art 
more subtle than the charging of ten per cent, above 
cost price, and who did not play into my hands by any 
wearisome financial strategy, began to be roped into 
my net as the area of my operations spread. For when 
I had acquired, at a calculated loss, a good half of the 
pottery business in this sequestered paradise, I could, 
by what is known as the Fluctuation of the Market 


(but I will not confuse you with technical terms), put 
my remaining competitors into alternate fevers of 
panic and expectation very destructive to a Sound 
Business Judgment. 

" Upon one day I would declare that a large consign 
ment of pottery being about to reach me, I could sell 
pipkins at half the usual price. Pipkins fell heavily, 
and I bought through my agent every pipkin I could 
lay hold of. The supposed consignment, I would then 
put about, had been broken to atoms by an avalanche 
which had overwhelmed the caravan at the very 
boundaries of the State. Price leapt upward, and as 
I was the author of the rumour I was also the first 
to take advantage of the rise in price. But the very 
moment, my dear nephews, that my sluggish com 
petitors attempted to follow suit the market would, 
oddly enough, fluctuate again in a downward direction. 

" Upon a certain morning when one Abdullah (who 
was my boon companion and the next merchant in 
importance to myself) decided to mark his best pipkins 
at ten dinars the dozen I happened most prudently to 
have offered my own at eight and a half dinars to my 
favourite customers. 

" And all this while I lived upon my hidden hoard. 

" Poor Abdullah came to me in a sweat, very early 
the next morning, and after some meaningless compli 
ments and many pauses, asked me to go into partner 
ship. For (said he) though he admitted he had not 
my capacities, yet he had a long experience in the trade, 
a large connection and many influential friends in the 
allied lines of Pipkin brokerage, Pipkin insurance, 
Pipkin discount, Pipkin remainders, and a most im 
portant branch the buying and selling of Imaginary 


" He could he anxiously assured me be of great 
service as an ally, but he was free to confess that if he 
continued as he was he would be ruined ; for, to tell the 
truth, he had already come to the end of his resources 
and had not a dinar in the house. 

" I heard him out with a grave and sympathetic 
countenance, heaving deep sighs when he touched upon 
his fears, nodding and smiling when he spoke of his 
advantages, patting him affectionately when he pro 
fessed his devotion to myself, and assuming a look of 
anguish when he spoke of his approaching ruin. 

"But when he had concluded almost in tears I told 
him in tones somewhat slower and graver than my 
ordinary, that I had one fixed principle in life, be 
queathed me by my dear father, now in Paradise, never 
to enter into partnership : no, not with my nearest and 
dearest, but ever to remain alone in my transactions. 
I frankly admitted that this made me a poor man and 
would keep me poor. It would be greatly to my advan 
tage, in the despicable goods of this world, to have at 
my disposal Abdullah s marvellous experience, his great 
array of family and business connections (to which my 
wretched birth could make no claim), and above all 
his genius for following the market. But the goods of 
this world were perishable especially earthenware 
and the sacred pledge given to my sainted parent 
counted more with me than all the baked mud in the 

" As I thus spoke Abdullah s breast heaved with 
tempestuous sobs, provoked by the affecting example 
of my filial piety, but also, I fear, by the black prospect 
of his own future. 

: I could not bear to witness his distress. I hastened 
to relieve it. Though my vow (I said) forbade me 


solemnly to enter into partnership, yet I could be of 
service to him in another manner. I would lend him 
money at a low rate of interest to the value of half his 
stock upon the security of the whole. Times would 
change. The present ruinous price of pipkins (by 
which I myself suffered severely) could not long endure. 
He would lift his head again and could repay me at his 

" He thanked me profusely, kissed my hand again 
and again, and gave me an appointment next day to 
view his merchandise and draw up the contract. 

I visited him at the hour agreed. The public 
notaries drew up an inventory of his whole stock, in 
cluding his house and furniture, his prayer beads (which 
I was interested in, for they were of a costly Persian 
make), his dead wife s jewels, all his clothes, his bed, and 
his pet cat an animal of no recorded pedigree but 
reputed to be of the pure Kashmir breed. I carefully 
noted all flaws, however slight, in each pipkin of his 
warehouse and set all such damaged goods aside as a 
makeweight. The sound pipkins I made no bones of 
but accepted frankly at their market value, and when 
the whole was added up the valuation came to no less 
than 20,000 dinars. Yet so hide-bound in routine were 
the inhabitants of the place that Abdullah if you will 
believe me ! had actually set his business stock down 
in his old books at four-fold that amount ! 

" As I had had to carry on, I had not now left by me 
my full hoard of 10,000 dinars. I had but 8,000 left. 
Yet I was in no difficulty. Half 20,000 is 10,000 
but there would be deductions ! 

" The costs of all this inventory and mortage were, 
of course, set down against my valued friend Abdullah, 
but since he had not the ready cash wherewith to pay 


the notaries, their clerks, the demurrage fees, the 
stamps, the royal licence, the enregistration, the tripli 
cates, the broker s commission, the . . 

" Pray, uncle," cried the youngest of the nephews, 
" what are all these ? 

" You must not interrupt me, my boy," answered the 
great merchant, a little testily, " they are the necessary 
accompaniments of such transactions. . . . Well, as I 
was saying, the broker s commission, the porter s wages, 
the gratuities to the notaries servants, the cleaning up 
of the warehouse after all was over, and a hundred other 
petty items, I generously allowed them to be deducted 
from the loan ; for our Prophet has said, Blessed is he 
that shall grant delay to his debtor. That very evening, 
with every phrase of goodwill and expressed hopes for 
his speedy recovery of fortune, I counted out to my dear 
friend Abdullah the full balance of 16,325 dinars and 
one half -dinar, and left him overjoyed at the possession 
of so much immediate wealth. 

" But, alas ! no man can forecast the morrow, and 
all things were written at the beginning to be as they 
shall be. So far from pipkins rising, the price fell 
slowly and regularly for three months, during which 
time I was careful to restrict my own production some 
what, though my poor dear friend, in his necessity, 
produced more feverishly than ever, and thereby did 
but lower still further the now really infamous price 
of pipkins. 

At last he came to a dead stop, and could produce 
no more. I gladly allowed the first, the second and 
even the third arrears of interest to be added to the 
principal at a most moderate compound rate, but there 
was some fatality upon him, and I was inexpres 
sibly shocked to hear one morning that Abdullah had 


drowned himself over night in a beautiful little lake 
which his long dead wife had designed for him in his 
once charming pleasure grounds." 

" Oh ! Poor man ! " cried all the nephews in chorus. 

" Poor man ! Poor man indeed ! echoed their 
benevolent uncle, " I was a stranger in that country. 
He was the closest tie I had to it, and, indeed, in my 
loneliness, the nearest companion I had in the whole 
world." And here the good old man paused to breathe 
a prayer for the departed companion of his long-past 
youth. He then sighed deeply and continued : 

I used what had now become my considerable in 
fluence with the government to provide him a costly 
funeral at the public expense for he had left no effects, 
nor even children to follow him. I walked behind the 
coffin as chief mourner, and fhough I attempted to con 
trol my grief, all the vast crowd assembled were moved 
by my manly sorrow, and several spoke to me upon it 
at the conclusion of the sad rites. 

" I allowed the decent interval of three days to elapse 
and then did what I had no choice but to do. I took 
over Abdullah s factory on foreclosure and added it 
to my own. 

" In this way the valuable kilns and stores of clay 
and wheels and vehicles, etc., all became my property. 
I had them valued, and was pleasurably surprised to 
discover tha,t they were worth at least 25,000 dinars. 

" A full two years had now passed since my first 
coming to this happy and secluded valley where Allah 
had poured out upon me His blessings in so marvellous 
a fashion. I was lonely, as you may imagine, but I 
manfully faced my duty. I continued to supervise and 
extend my manufactory of pipkins which now provided 
these articles for more than half the households of the 


State. I therefore could and did put the price of these 
useful articles upon a basis which, if it was somewhat 
higher than that to which people had grown accustomed 
during my earlier manipulations, had the priceless 
advantage of security, so that the housewife could 
always know exactly what she had to disburse and I 
what I should receive. As I manufactured upon so 
large a scale my overhead charges ..." 

" What are overhead ..." began the eldest nephew, 
when his uncle, visibly perturbed, shouted " Silence I 
. . . You have made me forget what I was going to 
say ! " 

There was an awkward pause, during which the old 
man restored his ruffled temper and proceeded : 

" I was able to buy clay more cheaply and better 
than the private pipkin-makers (for so they were now 
called, with well merited contempt) who still vainly 
attempted to compete with me, and my business auto 
matically grew as the poor remnant of theirs declined. 

" Not only did I continually increase in wealth by 
these somewhat obvious methods, but also in the power 
of controlling property ; for when some fresh fool 
among my fellow pipkin-makers found himself in 
difficulties, it was my practice to seek him secretly, to 
condole with him upon what I had heard was his 
approaching misfortune, and to save him from ruin by 
taking over the whole of his stock. Nay ! I would do 
more. I would rescue him from the sad necessity of 
attempting some new unknown trade by taking him 
into my own employment at a generous salary (but 
upon a monthly agreement) ; with a pretty concession 
to sentiment I would even leave him to manage his own 
dear old booth in the bazaar to which so many years 
had now accustomed him. I look back with pleasure 


upon the tears of gratitude which stood in the eyes of 
those to whom I extended such favours. 

So things went on for one more year, and another, 
and another, till the fifth year of my sojourn among 
these simple people was completed. 

I was in complete control of the pipkin trade, mak 
ing all the pipkins that the nation needed, and free from 
any rival. The house which I had built for myself was 
the finest in the place, but covered, I humbly add, 
with many a sacred text. Above its vast horse-shoe 
gate, ablaze with azure tiles, was inscribed in gold the 
sentence, Wealth is of God alone. 

I was popularly known as Melek-al-Tawajin/or 
the Pipkin King, but officially decorated with the local 
title of Warzan Dahur/ which was the highest they 
knew and signifies Leader in battle. I was entitled 
to wear a sword with a silver hilt in a jewelled scabbard, 
an ornament of which I was justly proud, but the blade 
of which I very sensibly kept blunt lest my servant 
should cut himself when he polished it, or even I should 
inadvertently do myself a mischief when I pulled it out 
with a flourish to display it to my guests, or saluted with 
it on parade. I had become a most intimate companion 
of the Court and was the most trusted counsellor of the 
King, to whose wives also I often lent small sums of 
money ; nor did I ask to be repaid. 

" In such a situation I mused upon my condition, 
and felt within me strange promptings for a new and 
larger life. I was now well advanced in manhood, I 
was filled with desires for action and device which the 
narrow field of that happy but restricted place could 
not fulfil. I longed for adventurous action in a larger 

The output and consumption of pipkins was at an 


exact unchangeable level ; the revenue a fixed amount. 
The profit of the trade I held came to some 20,000 
dinars in the year, the full purchase of which should be, 
say, 200,000 dinars. 

" I prayed earnestly for guidance, and one night as I 
so prayed an idea was revealed to me by the Most High. 

" I approached the King and told him how, all my 
life, I had nourished the secret belief that a trade 
necessary to the whole community should not, in justice, 
be controlled by a private individual, but should rather 
be the full property of the State, of which His Majesty 
was the sole guardian. 

" The King listened to me with rapt attention as I 
unfolded with an inspired eloquence my faith that no 
one man should intercept profits which were due to the 
work of all. It is your majesty, I cried, who alone 
should have control over what concerns the body cor 
porate of your people. He and he alone should 
superintend the purchase of pipkins, should regulate 
their sales, should receive all sums paid for them, and 
should use that revenue as he might think best for him 
self and the commonwealth. While I was struggling 
in the dust and confusion of commercial life, I con 
cluded, I had no leisure to work out my scheme in its 
entirety, nor even to appreciate its serene equity but 
now . . . now, I see, I understand, I know ! 

"Carried away by the fire of my conviction, my Royal 
Master could no longer brook delay. He bade me put 
the idea in its main lines before him at once, and 
assured me it should at once be put into execution. 

I thereupon pulled out a paper showing that since 
I was fully agreeable to take no more than the cash 
value of the trade plus goodwill and plus certain pro 
bable gains which I might reasonably expect in the 


future, I would be amply compensated if I were to hand 
all over to the Commonwealth for the merely nominal 
sum of half a million dinars 500,000. A sum which/ 
I continued, is of little moment to your Majesty ; 
especially as it will be met by the taxation of your 
willing and loyal subjects. 

" The matter was at once concluded. My great act 
of renunciation was everywhere acclaimed with trans 
ports of public joy. Every honour was heaped upon 
me. The King himself pronounced my panegyric at the 
farewell banquet given in my honour, and an inscrip 
tion was ordered to be encrusted in the most gorgeous 
tiles on the chief gate of the city : On the tenth day 
of the month Shaaban in the three hundred and third 
year from the Flight of the Prophet, by the act of Mah- 
moud the Magnificent all citizens became in the matter 
of PIPKINS his common heirs. 

The Merchant had been so moved by these old 
memories that he had difficulty in proceeding. He was 
silent for a few moments, and then ended in a more 
subdued tone. 

" The sum of 500,000 dinars, well packed, will load 
without discomfort some dozen camels. These and 
their drivers were provided me by a grateful nation. I 
passed out of the town at sunrise, attended by a vast 
concourse of the populace who pressed round me in a 
delirium of grateful cries, and so took my way east 
ward across the mountains and left this happy vale for 

At that moment the detestable falsetto of the Muezzin 
was heard from the neighbouring minaret, and the boys, 
all dazed at the recital of such triumphs, left the pre 
sence of their uncle as though it had been that of a God. 


That is: 





WHEN the hour of public executions had arrived 
and the boys were assembled once more at 
their uncle s feet to hear the story of his fortunes, 
(their minds full of his last success,) the old man, still 
occupied with that pleasing memory, began at once 
the continuation of his life. 

I left the valley, as I told you, my dear nephews, 
nourished by the memory of a whole people s gratitude 
and giving thanks to God who had made me the humble 
instrument of so great a good. They err who think 
that great wealth is marked with oppression, or that 
the rich man has despoiled the populace. Upon the 
contrary, the fortunes of the wealthy are but an index 
of what excellent work they have done for all ; and I, 
for my part, equally joined in my heart the memory 
of all the benefits I had conferred upon my kind in the 
matter of Pipkins, and my overflowing satisfaction 
at the heavy bags of coin which swayed upon the 
backs of my camels. 

Day after day we proceeded, my caravan and I, 
through the high hills, pitching our camp each evening 
by some wooded torrent side and nourishing ourselves 
with the provisions with which I had amply stored my 
company at my departure. 

Such scenes were solemn and inclined the mind to 
reverence. Never had my prayers been more sincere 



and deep than they were during the long watches I 
passed in the cloudless nights of those mountains, in 
the solemnity of their vast woods ; and the holy 
thoughts of grateful affluence harmonized with the 
ceaseless voices of the forest. 

I had during this long journey through the barrier 
range but little opportunity to exercise those gifts 
in which I may humbly say I excel. For the villages 
were few and poor and the opportunities for talent 
were rare. It was indeed my duty to keep my hand 
in, as the saying goes, and not to let my wealth diminish 
as I passed. Thus I would, for mere practice, strike 
some little bargain from time to time. I would pur 
chase obsolete arms from some village less backward 
than the rest and sell them at some further stage onward 
to rude mountaineers who had not even heard of 
such ancient weapons. I was not above offering to 
carry, as my caravan passed, sundry goods from one 
farm to another at an agreed price, and these (after 
selecting what from among them seemed to me best 
worth keeping) I would punctually deliver to their 

" I amused myself at my leisure, also, when I was 
in no haste, with occasional experiments in engineering 
such as suit the more educated man among his fellows. 
Thus I would let the water out from a dam as I passed 
it and then, at a considerable price, repair the ravages 
the escaping water might have made in the valley 
below. And I was even agreeable to retrace my steps 
and repair the damage which the flood had inevitably 
occasioned to the barrier itself : charging a suitable 
sum for both operations. 

" Sometimes when the occasion offered- I did 
business on a somewhat larger scale. I remember 


purchasing a whole train of -wheat which was on its way 
to one of the larger hamlets, and when I arrived there 
keeping the people in some suspense (but not to the 
point of actual famine) until their necessity very 
naturally produced an excellent price for the grain. 
I also negotiated ransoms from time to time upon 
commission when I found myself in a district of brig 
ands simple folk and I picked up some very curious 
carvings and pieces of metal work at a price satisfying to 
their rude owners yet promising an enormous profit 
when I should reach Ithe plains. 

But all these were mere jests and pastimes, the 
occupation of enforced idleness as my long journey 
through the hills continued. At last jl came to a place 
which had been described to me by a trusty servant, 
where, from the height of a pass I saw some thousands 
of feet below me the foothills descending rapidly on to 
an even plain which stretched, brown and sun-burned, 
to jthe horizon. Not far from the base of the moun 
tains, at the edge of this plain, |a noble Viver wandered 
in many branches, separated by sand-banks ; for I 
had been seven weeks in the hills and it was now the 
height of summer, the snows had long since melted 
away on the heights, and the stream was low. 

I pitched my last camp a mile or two from jthe 
hither bank of this great river, and sent forward 
certain of my servants to discover how best it might 
be crossed. They returned the next morning and told 
me that in several of its branches it was too deep to 
be forded, but at the place where the shores seemed 
to approach each other (where there was no inter 
rupting island, but one continuous sea of water four 
furlongs wide), a ferry had been established from a 
road-end and plied regularly for the passage of mer- 


chants, pilgrims and other travellers who there went 
over from the hills to the Kingdom of the Plain upon 
the further bank. I sent them back with an appoint 
ment for the ferry to be prepared to take my numerous 
caravan from the first hour after sunrise on the morrow. 
We packed all our gear, struck camp in the first dusk 
of dawn and duly reached the ferry head where a large 
flat boat manned with a dozen rowers captained by 
the old ferryman of the place waited us on a sort of 

The passage was tedious, and would take the whole 
day ; for the stream was swift and no more than one 
camel could cross at a time. 

" I was in some little hesitation how to act. If 
I remained upon the hither bank until all had passed 
over I could not be certain that my servants who had 
gone ahead would not play me a trick. If I crossed 
first I could not overlook the doings of my servants 
who had yet to cross ; and though I had no reason to 
doubt their perfect honesty, neither had I any reason 
to doubt their vile thievish character. At last I made 
the following plan : I discharged all the camels of 
their packs, putting the packs on board in one heap, 
being very careful to put on board all the food as well 
as the coin. With this and one camel which I attended 
myself and hobbled, I crossed alone. I then went back 
again with the ferryman and his crew, still keeping 
my provisions and my coin, and brought over another 
camel and his driver, and so on until the whole of my 
company was transferred. Not till all the camels 
and their drivers were assembled, clamouring with 
hunger, upon the further bank, did I allow the coin 
and food to be landed under my very eye. 

" The time which all this took made my retinue 


ravenously hungry, as I have said, and as the day wore 
on I was indeed touched by the earnest prayers they 
made for a little food, but I was too wise to yield, and 
it was not until the whole of my company was gathered 
together on the further bank, and I with it, that I 
permitted the cases to be landed and gave them all a 
hearty meal. 

" It was by that time near sunset. We pitched our 
camp and waited till the morning to find a more 
regular habitation, for I had noticed a very little 
way off from the further bank, and somewhat up 
stream, not a few scattered houses standing in gardens 
and shaded in a grove of trees. 

" I had as yet no plan how I might use the sums of 
which I was possessed. I was rather waiting for a 
venture to come to me than going out myself to seek 
it, when a chance word from the old ferryman, as I 
paid him the fares (which I had already contracted 
for at a great reduction, seeing how numerous we 
were), started me upon a train of thought. 

" And here, my nephews, I will beg you to observe 
that any hint of opportunity must be seized at once. 
It is thus that great things are done. 

" What the ferryman said was, A curse on those 
who come so loaded (for he grumbled and contended 
that his old crazy craft might have sprung a leak under 
such a pressure of traffic). 

Yet/ said I in reply, you have no lack of custom. 
As it is this day s business has left many disappointed, 
and I see upon the further bank the fires of those who 
have been kept waiting the whole day. They will be 
a hundred or more to claim your services by morning. 
That is true, he answered, but luckily few come 
as loaded as you or with so many beasts. This is none 


the less a good place of traffic, for it is the only passage 
across the water for many miles up and down stream, 
and serves the main road through the kingdom. 

" I asked him why had he not thought to meet the 
pressure by purchasing larger boats, or more of them, 
and hiring more men ; since it was clear there was 
profit in the place, and a greater demand of travellers 
than he could accommodate. 

" He answered again in the surly tone which people 
use when they boast of changeless custom, that the 
old boat had been good enough for his father and had 
served him all his own life, and was good enough for 
him. By this reply I saw that he was without the 
funds for replacing his old boat by more and better 
craft. This my discovery was the beginning of all 
that followed. 

" Before striking my camp the next day I first put 
the old ferryman in a reasonable humour by giving 
him good food and drink and treating him honestly 
in my conversation. When I saw that he was in a 
mood to be approached I suggested that we should 
enter a kind of partnership. 

" I am/ said I, quite at my leisure. I am under 
no need to go forward until I choose. I have thought 
of hiring some one of these habitations which I see 
in yonder grove, and of making a long sojourn here, for 
the perpetual spectacle of all this traffic crossing and 
re-crossing a great river under the mountains is a 

The old ferryman answered that he needed no 
partner, that he earned all that he needed by his trade 
and that he preferred to be alone. He also said that 
my foreign face was distasteful to him, and that grand 
people were often less trustworthy than they seemed. 


" Your sentiments/ I answered, are a proof of 
your wisdom, and also do you honour. But has it not 
occurred to you that if in the place of this one old 
craft half a dozen good new boats, much larger and 
properly manned, were provided, more comers would 
be tempted to pass here, there would be less delay, both 
the volume of traffic and the pace would be increased ? 
\ cannot but think it an excellent proposition. 

" I have found, my dear nephews, that obstinate 
old men are easier to shepherd into financial schemes 
than any other sort : nor was I here disappointed. 

" The old mule made the admission which all such 
men make after the first conventional delays. He said : 
That is all very well, but who is to pay for them ? 

" I replied quietly that I would. I shall be de 
lighted/ said I, to furnish half a dozen new boats and 
to pay for the men to row them until the new turnover 
begins. All I ask is that you shall still keep your 
present earnings, but share with me in equal amounts 
the new and extra earnings which my plan will almost 
certainly produce/ 

" It took me some time to rub into his rusty head 
the terms of my very favourable proposal. He kept 
on mixing up the division of any future profits and 
the division of his present income. Never did I appre 
ciate more than during my conversations with this 
stupid granfer the necessity for patience in spreading 
a commercial snare. I was at fearful pains to get the 
thing into his obtuse brain. He could be no poorer, 
for I asked nothing of his present earnings : he might 
be much richer, for he would have half any future 
additions. I would guarantee him the income he 
was already earning on condition that the much larger 
income to be earned by my methods should, over and 


above that guaranteed revenue of his, be equally 
divided between us. 

" He still seemed to think that there was some flaw 
or catch somewhere. He wanted the thing, simple as 
it was, explained to him over and over again. At 
last he got it clear ; he got by heart and repeated the 
refrain : Cannot be poorer, may be richer. Nor did 
it occur to him to wonder why I was so oddly generous. 

" I had our contract drawn up in due form, witnessed 
and sealed. I then caused to be constructed by the 
local shipwrights four first-class flat boats, some ten 
diram long by five wide. I saw to it that they should 
be painted in gay colours and in general have that 
vulgar violence so attractive to the masses. On their 
completion I added them to the existing capital of 
the ferry line. 

" At the same time I pointed out to him who was 
now my partner something which that same stupidity 
of his had made him miss, to wit, that as he had a 
monopoly his charges were far too low. Moreover, 
said I, when you consider what fine new boats I 
have put into service and how, as a consequence, the 
stream of traffic is increasing, to neglect the opportunity 
of profit is a great sin for which you will be answerable 
on the Day of Resurrection. Why, it was but yester 
day that you passed over twice as many people, you 
assured me, as ever you did in any other one day in 
your life ! 

" So wedded to custom was the old gentleman that 
he still hesitated, but remembering how right I had 
been in my innovation and unable to contest the 
evidence of his own eyes how from day to day the 
volume of traffic increased, he at last somewhat 
reluctantly consented. The fares were doubled, yet 


the applications of people desiring to cross the river 
grew no less. There arose a substantial profit, over 
and above the old ferryman s original income, to be 
divided between us, and judged by the cost of the 
new boats I was making some ten per cent, upon my 
money, a very reasonable profit under the circum 
stances. . . ." 

Here Mahmoud the great merchant paused, shut 
his eyes for a few moments, and continued in a 
murmur. " A very reasonable profit. Ten per cent., 
a very reasonable profit." Then, suddenly opening 
his eyes fiercely, he fixed them upon his alarmed 
nephews and cried. 

" Was it not strange for a man of my temperament 
to remain thus pottering with a few boats and leaving 
sacks full of coin unused ? You have only heard the 
beginning of the scheme upon which I was engaged ! 

I had already purchased a very nice little pro 
perty with a convenient house upon it, standing some 
yards back from the bank of the river and perhaps 
one hundred yards above the ferry. 

I next purchased a field upon the further bank, 
exactly opposite this house and its garden. I amused 
myself sometimes by rowing across the river from the 
steps at the foot of my ground to the field which I 
had purchased upon the other side. I sowed that 
field with beans of a particular kind with which (so 
I assured my neighbours), I was experimenting after 
an agricultural fashion. They were much interested, 
for agriculture is highly developed in that part, with 
the result that the highest arts, especially those of 
finance, are shamefully neglected. 

I allowed a few months to pass, during which 
the use of the ferry under my improved methods had 


more than trebled. It attracted to itself, now that 
the passage was so much easier, forms of traffic which 
it had hitherto not known. I even added to the fleet 
one huge pontoon for the special service of an elephant 
which we had warning was to pass, and when this 
was known, those great animals, which had pre 
viously used a ford several days up-stream, were 
attracted to the shorter mountain road by the ferry. 

When all this was so prosperously established, I 
informed a few of the friends I had made in the neigh 
bourhood that I must indulge in the fancy of a rich man 
and amuse myself by throwing a bridge between my 
house and the field I had bought upon the other shore. 
It will save me/ said I, the perpetual trouble of 
rowing across in my little skiff and also occupy my 
leisure ; for I am something of an engineer. 

" In truth very little engineering was required. 
All I had to do was to drive strong piles at intervals into 
the stream, lay trestles upon them, stay them with 
large baulks upon either side, and so make a good 
working bridge. It was no more than fit for foot 
traffic, but for this it was very convenient. 

" Having now this communication I bought more 
land upon the further bank and developed there a 
very nice little model farm. I will not deny that foot 
passengers would occasionally ask my leave to cross 
by the bridge in order to save them the tedious passage 
by water. These I always refused lest it should pre 
judice the interests of my friend the ferryman ; I made 
an exception only for one or two neighbours whom I 
desired to favour, and occasionally for really important 
people with whom the ferryman would not desire to 
quarrel. But I have a good heart, and at last I began 
to wink at the use of the bridge by more than these. 


Children especially (for I am very fond of young 
people) I could not bear to condemn to the trouble 
some passage by ferry, and I gave orders to my people 
to allow their trespass. 

" At last a regular path got established through my 
farm, and whether from slackness or generosity I know 
not, but I allowed the crossing of the river by my 
bridge to increase in volume and to become a daily 
practice. When it had reached a certain volume my 
detestation of disorder compelled me to make certain 
regulations. I put up a gate at either end and charged 
a purely nominal sum which went, as I pointed out, to 
the upkeep of the bridge ; though, of course, it did 
not nearly meet that expenditure. 

" To avoid the length and inconvenience of the 
passage by water this toll was cheerfully paid, and as 
the season advanced my bridge was more and more 

My partner, the old ferryman, saw all this with 
a confused eye. He had the sense to see that I would 
not hurt my own investment by competition, yet he 
could not but perceive that there was here an increas 
ing rivalry to his own long-established route. 

At last he approached me and asked me if we could 
not come to some pact ; I said that I saw no occasion 
for that. There was plenty of room for both. I was 
a wealthy man, and an act of generosity was a kind 
of luxury for me ; I could hardly ask people who had 
now grown used to so easy a passage to go back to the 
monopoly of the boats with their primitive, slow and 
clumsy business of embarking and disembarking, and 
their necessary delays and crowding. I pointed out 
to my revered partner that the boats were still neces 
sary for all heavy merchandise and for animals, and 


I also pointed out very strongly to the ferryman what 
he could not deny, that I would hardly do anything to 
prejudice him since that would be also to prejudice 
myself, as I was his partner. I even ridiculed him for 
not perceiving the force of such an argument before 
coming to me, and for troubling me with what was 
obviously nonsense. 

" He still grumbled, however, He said that" he 
was no scholar, that it sounded all right, but that he 
did not feel comfortable. I answered that I could 
not help his feelings, but it was a plain matter of com 
mon sense, and so dismissed him. 

" I then announced my intention of strengthening 
the bridge considerably and making it sufficient to 
support any kind of traffic. And so I did, at a very 
considerable expense. When I had completed the 
task it was a fine structure which would take every 
kind of beast of burden and vehicle, and a constant 
stream of foot-passengers. The only exception I made 
was for elephants, which animal (I said) I might allow 
later, but not until I had had the whole thing thoroughly 
tested. These beasts, therefore, still had to use the 
ferry : but as they were few in number and difficult 
to handle they only increased my partner s troubles. 

Meanwhile the fame of my bridge spread through 
out all the neighbouring countries, it gathered upon 
itself the whole volume of commerce. 

The old ferryman came to me in a mixed mood of 
anger, panic and delirious complaint. He said that 
his revenue was falling with alarming rapidity, added 
(a little spitefully I thought) that my share of that 
revenue would be not a quarter of what it had been 
in the past year, and said very plainly that if I did not 
make some change in my regulations my own profit 


would disappear altogether : that nothing would be 
left but his original revenue and that even this was 
now in doubt. As I answered nothing to all this 
long plea but let him talk himself out he ended up by 
asking, with some irony, whether I was one of those 
rich fools who liked to throw away their money. 

" Then it was that I answered him as he deserved to 
be answered, for I do not easily brook insult. I told 
him that I had mortgaged my share in the enterprise 
of the boats sometime before to a neighbour at a very 
good price before ever the bridge had appeared, that I 
was sufficiently pestered by this man who ascribed to 
me the continued decline in the revenue which I received 
and handed over to him, and that I would not have 
added to this perpetual annoyance the further com 
plaints of my inept partner. I drove him from my 
presence and told him I desired never to see him 

" I have no doubt that if I had been approached 
properly I would have made some sort of compensa 
tion to the neighbour to whom I had mortgaged at a 
fine figure my original share in the profits of the 
ferry. I had enjoyed a large sum which he could 
now never recover, and I might have let him have a 
fifth or a quarter of it back, merely as a piece of gener 
osity. But when I discovered that he had himself 
resold his interest to an ignoramus who was at that 
moment trying to find a purchaser for his rapidly 
shrinking property I lost all patience with the com 
bination of them and put every thought of the ferry 
out of my mind. The new purchaser foreclosed on his 
mortgage and got for the ferry one-third of what he had 
lent on it. 

; It was shortly after this transaction that the old 


ferryman went mad. It began by his coming to my 
house daily and making scenes outside the doors. 
Then he took to breaking the windows, and at last 
to gathering crowds and haranguing them on his 
imaginary persecution at my hands. I was compelled 
to have him locked up in his own defence, and I am 
glad to say that a merciful fever soon relieved him of 
what had become incurable delusions. He did not 
recover his sanity, however, as is so often the case, 
even in the last few hours before death. He continued 
to call me the most dreadful names, and to rave, in his 
mania of persecution, shouting that he had been robbed 
and ruined. It was a pitiful ending to what had long 
been a useful if obscure life. 

" As I could not bear to see the men whom he had 
employed starve I took them into my own employ for 
the making of a roadway to the bridge, for the further 
strengthening of it, the painting of it and so on, and 
sent all the ferry-boats down the river where they would 
be of more use than at this part where by my enter 
prise and public spirit the bridge had come into 
existence. I purchased them as old timber from the 
owners and made an insignificant profit of some few 
thousand dinars. 

" It is a pretty example of the way in which names 
cling to places that the point on the bank where the 
ferry used to ply is still called The Madman s Grave. 
For, indeed, the old fellow was buried, I heard, by 
his own request, close to where his boat used to ply. 
It was now high time to consider the whole 
question of the bridge and its finances. Through my 
goodness of heart and generous carelessness defects 
or amiable frailties against which I have always 
to be upon my guard the whole thing had got into 


a very unbusiness-like condition. The tolls were not 
more than customary payments, though I had raised 
them from time to time. There was no careful 
distinction between the different kinds of traffic. 
There were no regulations for the hours at which the 
bridge should be used, nor ready means of checking 
the accounts. 

" The new Bridge had caused the town to increase 
largely. Its governors and those of the adjoining 
districts were rightly concerned in its proper ordering. 

" The authorities of the neighbourhood fully agreed 
with me that it was necessary to put the thing upon a 
more regular footing. I suggested to them that before 
going further it would be but a kindly and reasonable act 
to consult those who made regular use of the bridge upon 
a large scale, and especially the merchants of the place 
and of the more distant towns upon the farther bank 
who crossed and recrossed at stated intervals and with 
considerable trains of traffic. These, therefore, were 
courteously convened. They were regarded as repre 
senting the mass of humbler foot-folk and between us 
all we drew up an excellent arrangement. 

" First we made ourselves into a Council. Next we 
voted ourselves full powers to do what we liked in 
managing the Bridge. 

" The merchants who were regular users of the 
bridge and who passed and repassed with their trains 
upon an average once a month, were to be free of toll 
on condition that they should pay an annual subscrip 
tion to the upkeep of the structure. It came to an 
average, for each of their beasts of burden, to about 
one-quarter of the public toll, and for each of their 
servants to less than one-half. 

" The common folk of the town and the villages, 


the herdsmen and all the humbler multitude which 
used the bridge in less lucrative fashion were to pay a 
toll double the original, which, after all, was only fair 
when one considered that they were compelled to 
use the bridge as there was now no other passage 
across the stream. I should add that the local authori 
ties which sat with us upon this Council, after 
drawing up the Ordinances, passed a local By-law 
full of common sense and the spirit of order. In this 
By-law they forbade the use of any boats whatsoever 
for the crossing of the water, under the excellent 
plea that men had in the past occasionally been drowned 
from these and that, anyhow, there was now a good 
bridge and no necessity for this old-fashioned and 
backward kind of travel. 

" People were also forbidden to swim the river be 
tween sunset and sunrise upon the grounds of security 
and police control, and between sunrise and sunset upon 
grounds of decency. 

" After the new regulations had been passed the 
gates were strengthened, regular officers were appointed 
to take the toll and I was public-spirited enough to 
permit my own servants to be withdrawn and these 
officials to be named (and paid) by the new Council, 
retaining to myself no more than the right of receiving 
the tolls and taking on of course the burden of upkeep 
as against the sums which I received from the regular 
merchants. I also reserved to myself the right, 
whenever the Council or the local authorities thought 
it necessary to have the bridge strengthened or repaired 
or painted, or ornamented, or decorated upon feast 
days, or covered with an awning during the great 
heats, to take up the contract for all these services 
at a price to be agreed upon between myself and the 


Council and the local authorities, at the head of 
whom was my dea/ old friend the Sheik. 

" When all these arrangements had been made, 
the thing was on a proper basis and formed, I am glad 
to say, for many other similar arrangements a prece 
dent, in which the advantages of the public and a 
proper return on capital were both considered. My 
Bridge Council as it was called was copied in many 
another enterprise in those parts, to not a few of which 
I was admitted as a director. 

" But one must march with the times. It could not 
be denied that this conservative and established way 
of recouping expenses and interest by tolls, excellent 
in its time, no doubt, had its drawbacks. There was 
something rather absurd in these progressive days 
(such was the phrase used to me by my friend the 
Sheik of the place which was now growing under the 
influence of my bridge to be a very large town), 
there was something rather absurd in the spectacle 
of gates put up to block that very passage which had 
only been erected for the convenience of the community ! 
What would not posterity think of us if they heard 
that we built a bridge and then put up gates to inter 
fere with its constant and easy use ? It was a burden 
also upon the community that officials should have 
to be employed at either end checking payments, 
keeping books and all the rest of it. 

What was worse, there seemed to be some leakage. 
Officials could not always be trusted to make an exact 
return (for they were of the baser sort at a small 
salary). It was suspected that their relatives and 
friends had been allowed to cross free of toll, for we 
could not keep a big watch at night and there was I 
fear a good deal of illicit use of the bridge. 


All of this, quite apart from the bad example it 
gave and the feeling of disorder it created, was also a 
source of anxiety to those who were concerned with 
the finance of the enterprise. The feeling grew rapidly 
at least it grew very strongly in me and I made 
every effort to spread it in others that Progress and 
sundry other virtues with which the Plain prided itself 
(as against the half-barbaric people of the mountains) 
demanded that all these anomalies should cease, and 
that the simple policy of THE FREE BRIDGE 
should triumph." 

As the aged merchant described the last stage of his 
adventure his face took on an animated look ; he 
spoke with decision ; there was a freedom in his 
gesture which recalled his old oratorical triumphs 
when he had occasion as a younger man to combine 
the practice of commerce, investment and finance 
with the public speeches which had rendered him 
famous. He seemed, for the moment, not so much 
the Merchant as the Senator, the Free Bridgeite 
of the great old days, and his nephews could not 
but admire the lofty air, the direct glance, the eloquent 
vibration of voice which accompanied this mood. 

"I for my part," continued the old gentleman, 
now transformed by the recollection of his part in 
public life, " did not fear to speak openly in the Council 
and (such was my love for my fellow-citizens) even 
in the market-place. I was untiring in explaining 
the simple economic principles underlying the policy 
of The Free Bridge. I was delighted to observe, as 
my efforts proceeded, two parties forming the 
Free Bridgeites, who had the tide with them and were 
in the spirit their day, and another party which, for 
lack of a better name, I will call the Recalcitrants, who 



were but a hotchpotch of evil-minded malcontents, 
dolts, public enemies, and in general a body who had no 
argument save that things were very well as they were 
and it was a pity to change. 

I need scarcely tell you which of these competing 
interests won. Intelligence, business enterprise, public 
spirit, common sense, justice and eighteen or nineteen 
other things which for the moment escape me sup 
ported the glorious triumph of The Free Bridge. At 
last, when the moment was ripe for it to be voted 
upon, we swept our opponents out of existence at 
the polls, securing out of every 100 votes no less than 
fifty- three for our project. 

The Sheik who, in the growing importance of 
the community was now confirmed in his office by 
his Sovereign under the title of Excellent, delivered 
an unforgettable harangue, saying that the Day when 
the tolls should be taken off the Bridge and the gates 
thrown down would stand in the annals of his country 
next to its historic Charter and its acceptance of the 
True Faith. Amid the deafening shouts of a vast 
concourse, composed, as I was amused to discover, 
of both parties indifferently, but all out for the occa 
sion, this great official proceeded in state to the 
entrance of the bridge, cut symbolically the silken 
thread with which the gates upon either end had been 
tied and in loud tones declared the bridge open in the 
name of Allah and his Prophet. Women wept pro 
fusely and even strong men had difficulty in hiding 
their emotion ; only the younger of the children and 
the animals accompanying the procession appeared 
indifferent. Of the four officials deputed for the 
watching of the tolls two were thrown into jail on the 
charge of malversation : the other two were, on my 


making an appeal for them, allowed to leave the 

The head of the opposing party who had done his 
best to defeat this great and necessary reform now, upon 
payment, openly admitted that he was converted ; 
whatever sentimental attachment he might still 
cherish for his old views, he now clearly saw that they 
were no longer practical politics. 

The gardens of the city were illuminated for three 
successive nights, cannon were fired and in view of 
the quite exceptional character of the occasion many 
criminals were pardoned, including the young brother 
of the head of the opposition who, under an assumed 
name, had languished in jail for several months. 

In all this enthusiasm it was easier to get through 
the practical details of the change, as the obstacle of 
petty detailed criticism proceeding from an ignorant 
public was removed. 

" A new Constitution was happily agreed upon in 
place of the old revenue from tolls. This old revenue 
had fluctuated between the annual amounts of 15,000 
and 25,000 dinars. To replace it and to allow for all 
contingencies a fixed sum of 30,000 dinars was put 
aside as an annual charge upon the public rates to be 
allocated to the Service of the Bridge. This sum 
would, of course, in the natural course of things have 
been paid annually to myself. But I had other 

After this decision to allocate 30,000 dinars had 
been arrived at by a unanimous vote I created a 
very favourable impression when I rose in my place 
and said that I would never occupy the privileged 
and, in my view, corrupt position of a citizen drawing 
a regular pension from my fellows. However great 


my services had been in the past, I was glad that they 
should be at the disposal of my country for so I called 
the place, having lived in it now two years and more. 
I could not bear to think that I was, as it were, sucking 
the very life-blood of the community and drawing 
into my private coffers pence which had been con 
tributed, for the most part, by the humblest of my dear 

" Agreement had already been shown with this 
announcement which came from the depth of my 
heart ^when the Council was overjoyed to hear my 
conclusion. It was, if anything, even more sincere. 
I will accept/ said I, if you really insist upon it, a 
sum of money down which might represent the capi 
talized value of the revenue, but I absolutely refuse 
upon any terms whatsoever to remain a mere drone 
supported by this active commercial community, 
skimming the cream off the taxes and feeling myself 
a burden where I should be an aid. 

" Applause was almost unknown in the dignified 
debates of our assembly, but upon this occasion it 
could not be restrained ; for some minutes together 
the grave but voluminous cheers of my colleagues 
assured me that I had done right and amply compen 
sated me for any loss that I might suffer, supposing 
(which was, after all, improbable) the revenue from the 
bridge in the future would largely rise. 

" Such is the frailty of human nature that perhaps 
the recognition of my good deed would have been less 
frank, or less simple, had the Council themselves been 
compelled to find the money out of their own pockets. 
But there was no question of this. The burden 
must fall, as was only just, upon the whole body of 
citizens, since all used the bridge. My proposal 


met therefore with enthusiastic assent from every 
side, and one speaker in the ensuing debate (a friend 
who, in his humble way, was associated with other of 
my lesser enterprises) pointed out what I could not 
in decency have alluded to, that I also was a tax 
payer, and a large one ; so that any public payment 
was borne partly by myself. The Sheik, in closing 
the discussion, after a few compliments which my 
natural modesty forbids me to repeat, said that clearly 
nothing was now left but to make a computation 
a mere matter of book-keeping and that this detail 
might safely be left to a small committee of three, 
which was nominated upon the spot ; their work was 
of course honorary, for they were men of high standing ; 
but I saw to it that all their expenses and other disburse 
ments should be met and I gave them much hospitality. 
The committee met at intervals during the ensuing three 
weeks. I appeared frequently before this Committee in 
the capacity of witness, I produced all my books and 
had, I am glad to say, the restraint and good feeling to 
let things take their course and not to haggle as though 
this great public settlement had been a private commer 
cial deal. It is enough to say that at the end of this 
proceeding the sum of 1,400,000 dinars was awarded 
to me by the arbitrators and that I, after protesting 
against what I called the excessive generosity of 
the State, then added to my popularity by erecting 
at my own charges a fine gate of entry at the city end 
of the bridge which absorbed half the odd 400,000 ; 
the other half I gave in a burst of generosity to the 
members of the committee : not of course in their 
public capacity but privately, as being my personal 
friends, and in reward for their untiring public 

( C 



I was left with a million. 

I was fully content. 

I desired no more. 

But, uncle/ timidly interrupted the eldest of 
the nephews, " I am puzzled by one thing. Will 
you allow me to ask you a question upon it ? 

" Certainly, my dear lad," said the old man, stroking 
his beard and awaiting the query. 

" Why, uncle," said the boy, still hesitating some 
what, " it is this. I do not quite see how it came that 
you should have a million dinars. You came to this 
place with half a million, how then did it become 
one million ? 

The folly of the question raised a titter from his 
brothers, who had always regarded their senior as 
the least brilliant of their clan. But their uncle was 
more lenient and checked their mirth (which was 
especially loud in the youngest), and said : 

" My dear boy, do you see anything extraordinary 
in an accretion of fortune to a man who served the 
community so well ? 

"No, not exactly that," said the elder nephew, 
still hesitating, far from it, dear uncle ; but what I 
do not quite clearly see is where the other half-million 
came from." 

" Foolish lad ! " answered his relative, now touched 
with annoyance. " It came from my untiring devo 
tion to the public service, from my foresight in providing 
a magnificent bridge which for all those years no one 
had attempted ; from the freely expressed desire of 
my fellow-citizens through their honoured representa 
tives. It was, indeed, but a small recompense for 
all the good I had done and all the immeasurable 
advantage to this town which my energy had created." 


Yes, dear uncle, but . . ." went on the blushing 

Oh, don t listen to him," cried his brothers in 
chorus. You will never make him understand ! 
Our father has always said that he could not even 
do his arithmetic," and the shrill laugh of the youngest 
was heard at the end of this protest. 

" Well, well," said Mahmoud good-naturedly, " we 
will not quarrel about it." 

At that moment the intolerable shriek of the Muezzin 
calling the Faithful to prayer was heard from the 
neighbouring minaret and the somewhat strained 
situation was relieved. 


That is : 



WHEN his nephews next filed into the presence 
of Mahmoud at the hour of public executions 
their first act was to stand in a line and salaam ; 
their next to push forward the eldest, who with much 
catching up of himself and in the humblest tones, 
desired to apologize to his uncle for the interruption 
of which he had been guilty during their last audience. 

"It is not my fault, Revered Sir," said he, " that 
I was born a little thick-headed in the matter of 
figures. The whole thing has been explained to me 
most fully by my father, my mother, my brothers, and 
sundry guests that came in last night after the evening 
meal : to which (alas !) we could not afford to invite 
them. I now see very clearly where and how a 
million can become two without breeding, and I only 
hope that in the further story of your adventures we 
shall find miraculously increasing with every year 
the fortune which the Almighty bestowed upon you 
in reward for your ceaseless efforts to benefit man 

Having said this the lad bowed once more in deep 
obeisance, while, at a signal from one of their uncle s 
attendant slaves, all the brothers sank cross-legged to 
the floor and assumed expressions of the most enrap 
tured attention. 

There was no need," said the old man kindly, 



to refer again to this unfortunate little affair ; but 
since you have done so I am indeed glad to learn that 
your difficulties have been explained away. No doubt 
your excellent father, my brother, and his guests made 
it plain to you that, if anything, my reward had been 
far below that to which I was morally entitled. For 
a man who not only builds for a city a fine bridge but 
also, from a pure public spirit, leaves it open and free 
to all, is worthy of very high reward indeed at the 
hands of the Commonwealth. But, to tell the truth, 
though I am not indifferent to success in any task I 
take up, I was not so much concerned with the worldly 
advantage of my increased fortune as with the good 
I had done, and with the knowledge that it would add 
to my glory in paradise. For it is written : Three 
works are remembered on high : The building of a bridge, 
the digging of a well, and the pulling down of poor men s 

In the last part of what you said (my dear 
nephews), I fear you will be disappointed ; for the 
story I have to tell to-day (and here his voice fell 
to a graver tone) " is one of strange disaster. 

I desire you to bear my losses even more closely 
in mind than the previous accounts of my rising 
fortunes or than those other accounts which will 
follow and will show how I recovered my standing in 
the world. For it would indeed be a poor service I 
should do you young people if I were to leave you 
under the error that energy and adventure alone 
add gold to gold : no, nor even cunning. For there 
is also the Will of the Supreme. 

What is the Sleight of Hand or Eye, without Him ? 
asked the old Merchant in a rapture (as his youngest 
nephew cleverly swallowed a yawn). " Do you hope 


for gain by the folly of your dupe or even by your own 
stupidity ? It is far otherwise ! 

" Our Sacred Books present us with many an example 
of good men whom the Infinite Mercy has seen fit to 
try. It is our conduct under these ordeals which are 
the true test of character and the only foundations 
of our future and eternal reward. By so much as I 
ascribe to the Mercy of Allah whatever goods have 
befallen me, by so much do I ascribe to His inscrutable 
wisdom and kindness even the sharp reverses of this 
life. For by these we learn that there is an element 
of speculation in all business ; that we are surrounded 
by the competition of rivals whom we should never 
despise ; that our friends ever lie in wait to outwit us. 
It is only by the humble acceptation of such lessons 
that we become even more acute in dealing with our 
fellow-beings than we were before we had suffered 

" However, I will not delay, but proceed at once 
to the harrowing tale. For you must now follow 
your poor uncle through dark and distressing days." 
As he said these words the features of his young 
relatives betrayed the utmost concern ; none more 
than those of the youngest, the great pathos of whose 
expression oddly assorted with innocence of his years. 
You must know, then," began the old man, " that 
my prime error at this moment in my career, was a 
desire for ease. I thought (I say it to my shame !) 
that I had made enough. To use the familiar language 
of the market I regarded my present fortune of a 
million dinars as my pile/ To use another phrase 
which you will come across very frequently in your 
maturer years, I was ready to retire. 

"Oh, fatal error ! Oh, profound ingratitude ! 


Here was I, still in the vigour of early manhood for 
I had but just attained my thirtieth year, on the full 
tide of an apparent success, blessed in all my doings 
and yet already with a paltry million in hand so 
ungrateful to God as to entertain a shameful tempta 
tion to leisure ! The result shall be a warning to you, 
I hope, and to any who may come across this recital. 

The insidious poison of content had, all unknown 
to myself, wormed its way into my heart. I had 
(for the moment at least) wearied of getting the better 
of others which should be the chief activity of a man ; 
I was already toying with such fripperies as the read 
ing of books, the contemplation of fine manuscripts, 
the designing of a house for myself, the planning of 
gardens, futile conversation with the learned, and, 
worst of all, the taking of an interest in the past. 
Beyond this foolish bent for acquiring knowledge of 
dead things, I descended to the pen ! I actually began 
to write. To the writing of verse (I humbly thank. 
God !) I never fell, but had not a sharp chastisement 
brought me to my senses I might have come to it. 

You know, perhaps, my dear nephews, that there 
are some men so lost to all shame that on finding 
themselves possessed of a considerable sum they will 
not embark it in commerce nor even lend it out at 
interest to the widow and the orphan, to the teachers 
of our holy religion, or to districts struck by famine ; 
indeed, they make no lucrative employment of it, but, 
yielding to a base appetite for repose, they draw upon 
it as they need until it is wholly exhausted. 1 

Oh , how shocking ! piped a shrill voice, interrupt 
ing the merchant in his eloquence. The cry proceeded 
from the youngest. 

You feel strongly, my little fellow," said his uncle, 


" and you are quite right. I am delighted to find 
that one so young has already so sound a sense of our 
duty in the battle of life. There are, I repeat, men 
so despicable that they will put their substance aside, 
taking from it what they need from day to day, until 
one of these two events befalls them : at the worst 
they live too long and spend their last miserable years 
in destitution : at the best (and it is a poor best) they 
live too short, and have the infinite mortification, in 
the agony of death, to discover that they might have 
had some slightly larger income had they made a 
more exact calculation. 

" I am speaking frankly to you, my nephews (in 
spite of the difference in our ages and of the respect 
you owe me as the head of the family) , when I confess 
so great a depth of degradation as this. I did not 
put this million which I had acquired aside. I used 
it fruitfully. But my mind was occupied (even after 
so many years I blush to recall it !) in seeking some 
secure and permanent form of revenue, so that I should 
be free henceforth from the labour and risk of buying 
cheap and selling dear, and from the duty of hunting 
the dupe and the incompetent. 

While I was revolving in my mind how best I 
might obtain this leisure there came to me my tempta 
tion. For a traveller arriving in the City of the Bridge 
let it be known to the merchants of the place that the 
King of an Island called Izmar, one day s sail from 
the coast (a kingdom renowned throughout Asia for 
its fidelity to the Prophet, the antiquity of its customs, 
the solidity of its institutions), required a loan. 

For what purpose ? I asked him. 

I know not, he answered, but I think it is in 
order to pay back another loan which he contracted 


some years ago in the effort to pay another loan which 
his father had contracted when a few years previously 
he had been compelled to repay an earlier loan. 

I admired the scrupulous anxiety of this monarch 
and was the more confirmed in the project that was 
forming in my mind. That very night I bade farewell, 
not without grief, to the City of the Bridge. I sold 
my slaves and my house at some loss (such was my 
infatuation !) and before it was light started out upon 
a good horse, carrying with me my million dinars 
reduced to one hundred thousand pieces of gold 
which, in this form, could easily be carried upon a 
few pack animals that followed me with their drivers. 

" My passage of the sea was easy. I saw, at the 
rising of the sun, fine mountains against the South 
and very soon I discerned at their base on the shore, 
the walls, the piers, the minarets of a great city, its 
flanks upon the edges of the sea. So did I land under 
a good augury. 

" Everything in the place, as I passed through it, 
smiled at my project. The wealth of the great houses, 
the busy commerce of the streets, the port quite filled 
with shipping from every place, the sounds of strange 
tongues (men not only from all Islam, but Nazarenes 
also, and Kafir, and merchants of China), the excellent 
order everywhere about, all these promised me the 
security \vhich I desired. 

" I put on my best raiment, finely fringed, and all 
my jew r els and presented myself to the Port-Master 
as upon a matter of state business, handing him at 
the same time, in a lofty manner, a roll which I begged 
to have delivered to the Controllers of the Treasury. 
The Master of the Port treated me with the reverence 
my wealth deserved. I reposed for an hour in the 


court of his house, resting to the pleasant trickle of 
a fountain and waiting the pleasure of the authorities. 
At the end of that time a dozen horsemen magnificently 
mounted and bearing the insignia of the King formed 
before the porch of my host. Their commander set 
foot to the ground and begged me with a very low 
salaam to mount and ride. It would be his privilege, 
he said, to hold my bridle. 

It was my design to maintain my state, and thus, 
in great pomp, was I led through the busy streets till 
I came to a vast archway all emblazoned with holy 
texts. Passing through this, I came into a more magni 
ficent court than I had thought men could have built 
in this world. Indeed, the folk had made stories of 
it that it was not of human handicraft, but that its 
delicate piers and alabaster columns and lovely arches, 
lighter and lighter as they rose to heaven, had sprung 
up in a moment at the command of spirits in the days 
of Soleiman, from whom the monarchs of this happy 
island claimed descent. 

My advent was greeted with a flourish of trumpets 
as though I were some sort of ambassador, such an 
effect had my robes and jewels and letter produced, 
and, without delay, I was conducted by servants of 
the palace into the presence of the Council. 

" The morning was already far advanced, the heat 
increasing, but the apartment in which I found myself 
(which was ablaze with the most costly tiles and hang 
ings of the Indies) was very cool ; and again the 
pleasant sound of water plashing from a scented 
fountain refreshed the air. 

Before the throne stood, in respectful order, the 
twelve councillors of the King ; and He himself, upon 
a marble throne, exquisite in workmanship and vener- 



able with age, sat : a young man of a dreamy, melan 
choly, but pleasing countenance, who bowed his head 
very slightly at my approach, smiled gently as he did 
so and welcomed me. Such was the King. I in my 
turn cast myself down before him with a full obeisance 
until he bade me rise. 

Our business was not long in concluding. The 
Grand Vizier, who stepped up and stood on the right 
hand of the throne, put me certain questions Whether 
I had my treasure with me ? Whether I could produce 
it by such a date ? And so forth. I satisfied him by 
signalling to my attendants with their burdens. The 
packages were opened before the eyes of the Council 
and at that sitting all was arranged. For the terms 
which I proposed were discovered suitable enough. 
I have told you, my dear nephews (and I do confess it 
again to my shame), that desire for ease had now taken 
place in my mind, whereas further gain should have 
occupied it. I very modestly asked for no more 
than five dinars yearly on the hundred, I told the 
Council and his Majesty that for the million dinars 
which could here be counted I should ask annually 
but fifty thousand for revenue, and that paid on such 
dates as they thought fit. 

All nodded gravely ; the King gently complimented 
me upon my public spirit, for now (as he was good 
enough to say) he regarded me as a subject. 

He looked round among his councillors as though 
seeking a suggestion, when one of them, Tarib by 
name (whom I distinguished by his fine intelligent 
face and felt drawn towards already), said in a firm 
voice, The Salt Tax/ and all, including the King 
himself, murmured approval. 

" Then did I learn that for many generations past 


the people of this wealthy and fortunate realm had 
paid to the State a fixed tax upon salt, which amounted 
yearly, upon the average, to the sum I had demanded. 
It was regularly received ; for all the salt of this land 
came over sea and the toll was levied at the ports of 
entry. A Charter was drawn up by the Council in 
simple terms. It was agreed by my own wish that 
my name should not be published to the people, lest, 
perhaps, the odium of receiving tribute should attach 
to one so recently come among them. But the King 
assured me, as he signed, that not odium, but gratitude, 
was my due : he for his part would never cease to 
believe that I had been moved to make so generous 
an offer by some particular affection for himself and 
his people. 

" Rooms within the palace were set at my disposal 
until I should have time to choose some house in the 
city, and through the importance of my connexion 
with the State I was sworn of the Council with the 

" As I read my Charter through all alone in the 

privacy of my room I noted with pleasure the short 

and simple phrasing of this great commercial people : 

" To Mahmoud, his assignees and heirs for ever 

and ever, so long as the State shall last, and the Salt 

Tax be gathered 

ran the what is called among the mighty The 
Operative Clause : the Words of Power. I had 
them by heart in a moment. I could not forbear to 
write them down in my own hand more than once, 
for the pleasure it gave me. 

Here then was my every wish fulfilled ! Here was 
the best of company, the most dignified of positions, the 
most charming of climates, surroundings of wealth, 


luxury and ease ; the culture of a thousand years ; 
all that our religion permits in art and entertainment. 
Books of every language and climate. Stores of good 
from every sky under heaven, from every people and 
of every age. Here, indeed, might I live my life 
without further adventure or negotiation. What 
pleased me most was to think that I would be able to 
escape some little strains I might have to put upon my 
honour though not I am glad to say upon my con 
science in the rude struggle of the outer world. No 
one here knew my humble beginnings, or in too much 
detail the particular abilities whereby I had so rapidly 
enriched myself. 

I was now one of the great lords, and very soon 
the foundation of my fortune would be lost in the 
mists of time. Men would easily come to believe that 
my fathers had acquired it, sword in hand, when first 
the banner of the Prophet was seen upon those hills 
three hundred years before. 

I will not detain you with the happy disposition 
of my time, nor with more than the statement of my 
supreme enjoyment. Scrolls from every land I 
accumulated in my library, I had about me the most 
costly stuffs and upon my person and upon those of 
my attendants the rarest gems. My chief delight was 
to gather at my table a small, but various, band of 
intimates ; chief of whom was that earnest, intelligent 
young man of the Council whom I noted on my first 
arrival. Tarib, as I have told you, was his simple 
name ; and I learned how his father had been no 
more than a respected merchant in offal. Dying, he 
had left his son a sufficient income, and that son had 
so added to it by occasions of public service that he 
had now risen to one of the highest offices of State 


It was his special function in the Council to represent 
and to retail to the King whatever popular movement 
was abroad, for he was known to every class in the 
city. He was the intermediary between King and 
people, was regarded in some way as a Tribune : or, 
as his title went, The Doubler/ which term, already 
centuries old, some derived from his double function, 
others from the attitude which etiquette demanded him 
to assume to Monarch and subjects alike. Others 
again put it down to the emoluments of his post. 

" Through him I learned to understand this kindly, 
industrious and most loyal people. In my walks with 
him, and by my regular attendance at his public ad 
dresses, I grew intimate with that character in the 
people of Izmar which had led to their great reputation 
throughout the world. 

" It was their pride that they never shook the 
State by violent change, but with gradual and well- 
weighed reforms adapted themselves generation by 
generation to the movement of the world. They 
thought disdainfully of nationalities controlled by less 
powerful traditions ; for a man of great fortune like 
myself, it was therefore an ever-pleasing thought 
the foundation I might say of my happiness to 
consider the peace and solidity all about me. That 
portion of the populace (about one half) which lay 
upon the verge of starvation were manfully content 
with their lot, or, if ever they showed some beginning 
of complaint, were at once appeased when they had 
pointed out to them their superiority over the miser 
able foreigners of the Mainland ; while those who 
(like myself) were possessed of vast revenues and 
lived in great palaces were far too devoted to the 
Commonwealth to dream of grumbling at their lot. 


They would, upon the contrary, frequently express 
their devotion to State and King, and prove it by 
doing for the common weal, unpaid, as much as three 
hours work in a day ; or even four when there was a 
press of business. 

" Thus, one would maintain the magnificent breed of 
horses by his devotion to the chase ; another would 
support the industry of the goldsmith by his frequent 
purchase of ornaments ; another would, as a local 
magistrate, condemn the poorest of his district to 
various terms of imprisonment ; another, though in 
no way bound to do so, would write a book the 
description, perhaps, of his tastes in food, or a recollec 
tion of those men and women of the wealthier sort 
whom he had met in the course of his useful life. Yet 
another would contribute to the health of the State 
by the continual practice of commerce, to which these 
people were very much devoted. There was hardly 
one of this rich class in which I now mixed, but had 
his chosen work thoroughly accomplished. The con 
tent of the poor, the public spirit of the rich, welded 
the whole of that society into a sort of paradise ; but 
most noble of all and most worthy of this people was 
this young Tribune Tarib. 

" He it was who talked most incessantly and before 
the largest gatherings, thus creating a taste for public 
discussion. He it was who discussed practical remedies 
whenever discontent appeared, and he who worked 
out every detail in the interesting reports upon the 
condition of the starving. To the thousands whom he 
addressed his manner nevej grew stale. His eloquence 
was sober, his speeches with praise of Izmar and quota 
tions from the Sacred Books, as also with known jests 
things which this practical people infinitely preferred 


to empty theories of the Mainland. So all went well ; 
and I (blind to the future, alas !) went down that path 
of statesmanship along which my friend led me, little 
knowing whither it would lead me. 

" I did not often speak myself at the public meetings 
so frequently held (they were indeed the noble pastime 
of this patriot folk), lest my foreign accent should hurt 
my dignity, For I had not yet a complete command 
of the language, though it was now two years since I 
had become a citizen and subject of the Monarch to 
whom we were all so devoted. But I would sit by 
the side of my friend Tarib and others as they harangued 
the populace in the open places of the city or, upon 
occasions, in the mosques. On such occasions I would 
show by my smiles and applause my approval of all 
that was said for the betterment of the poor or the 
rich, as the case might be, and I always laughed at 
the ritual jests, sometimes even before they were 
delivered. In this way I grew familiar with most of 
those in the capital and with many of the provincial 
towns, and hoped to conquer general favour. 

" I was present when Ibn Rashn delivered his great 
harangue to a vast assembly, denouncing the foreign 
practice of marrying a fifth wife which abomination 
there was some danger of seeing introduced into his 
beloved island. I was present also when the same 
great and eloquent man gave his second great harangue, 
insisting upon the necessity of fifth wives and carrying 
that reform by acclamation as a law. Seated with 
others on the raised platform which surrounded the 
orator I applauded the Grand Vizier in his solemn 
declaration against shaving, a thing (said he) abhorrent 
to every true believer, and heard the sway of argument 
for and against this custom ; which (I am glad to 


say) was afterwards put down with the utmost severity 
of the law. But my happiest memories are still of 
those numerous days when my intimate the Tribune 
Tarib who could never be accused of any petty thing 
poured forth his soul upon the poverty of the commons 
and extolled to them the national pride and glory of 
doing nothing to change it : in which principles he 
was applauded with frenzy. This spirit was peculiar 
to this happy land and no one expressed it in wiser or 
more memorable terms than he who was now my 
bosom friend. 

But there came a time I had been in Izmar 
about three years when it was clearly necessary to 
strike a new note. 

There was at the moment of which I speak some 
little commotion in the city on account of a dearth of 
rice, the diet of the poorer classes, or at least the diet 
of the poorer classes when they could obtain it ; for 
there was a custom deeply rooted in this conservative 
people that when the poorer classes could not obtain 
rice, they should do without it. 

" At this juncture the difficulty had risen to the 
middle classes, and these joined with the populace. 
Ill ease grew general. A complaint of stringency was 
abroad, from the ranks of those who starved to death 
up to the merchants and the lords themselves. 
Even the moderately rich could no longer afford the 
services of more than a dozen dancing girls. 

" The whole Island was in a ferment and the capital 
was so disturbed that one might have thought oneself 
at times among the degraded tribes of the Mainland. 

Processions had appeared in the streets, sometimes 
actually accompanied by musical instruments of a 
loud and distressing order. Banners had been carried, 


and upon one occasion the litter of no less a person than 
the Lord Executioner had been detained for half an 
hour in a block caused by the multitudes proceeding 
to hear a favourite orator. The Council had taken 
note of these things and my friend the Tribune Tarib, 
the Lord Doubler, was naturally deputed to deal 
with them in his own inimitable way. 

" He went on foot to the vast meeting that had 
been convened in the Mosque of Nasr-ed-din the 
founder of the Dynasty. We also went with him thus 
humbly, the better to please the public eye. With 
some dozen others of my rank I sat upon a rug imme 
diately at the foot of the orator and listened entranced 
to his impassioned words. 

" Never had I heard him more inspired ! It was a 
great volume of sound, the words in which followed 
each other in quick succession, often meaningless but 
never pedantic, and throughout the speech he was 
careful to interpolate short passages which the meanest 
intellect could clearly follow and which exactly 
corresponded to the desires of his hearers. Why 
should you starve ? cried he, while all around you 
is wealth ? Which the wealthy will be the first to 
forego. Murmurs of applause burst from the lips of 
the Treasurer and the Grand Vizier, while I myself I 
am not ashamed to say cried aloud in my enthusiasm 
for the sentiment. Why/ said he, do you lack your 
poor pittance of rice while the bloated rich -and he 
looked round at the galleries as though to find them 
there- have their fill of the tenderest lamb stuffed 
with pistachio nuts ? And who shall blame them ? 
Again there rose a wave of applause in which I joined 
more heartily than ever, for the words reminded me of 
that delicious viand, which I had, but an hour before, 


very plentifully consumed. Why, he shouted in 
louder tones- Why do you permit yourselves to be 
loaded with an intolerable burden of taxation ? Which 
our wealthier classes bear also in an immoderate 
degree ? 

" At this phrase the exultation of the Lord Chief 
Treasurer knew no bounds, and he led the stream of 
cheering which it so richly deserved. How long are 
we to wait for that reform which our fathers especially 
among the gentry demanded and so nearly obtained ? 
He looked round upon them for a moment in a dramatic 
pause, and then said in solemn tones, A tax upon the 
worthless rich, and more especially (yet louder) upon 
the alien rich and more especially still (his voice now 
booming like a hammering of drums) upon the alien 
rich who stand idle battening upon the revenues of the 
State, this I say . . . But the delirium of acquies 
cence aroused by this noble sentiment cut off the rest 
of his phrase and drowned his voice for the space 
in which a man might recite the prayer for the 

" Used as I was to this style of public eloquence and 
the expression of opinions universal to this happy 
people (bound up, as I thought, with the very atmo 
sphere of their race) I naturally expected that when 
the dying down of the applause should have allowed 
him to be heard we should have that second part of 
which his speeches had always consisted an appeal 
to the conservative instincts of our race, to their 
noble patience and to their dogged tenacity in doing 
nothing which had made them the envy of their less- 
gifted neighbours. 

" Bitterly was I undeceived ! 

For what were his very next words ? I could 


hardly believe my ears as those words fell upon me. 
Why/ said he in grave and tragic tones, slowly separa 
ting them syllable by syllable, why do you thus 
remain ground down by such an iniquity as the tax 
upon SALT ? J 

" My heart stood still. I ventured discreetly to 
touch his foot with that one of my own which was 
nearest. He replied by treading heavily upon my toe, 
which I interpreted as a signal of secret friendship. 
But I was terribly concerned to note that the native 
Lords around, squatted upon the same platform as 
myself, wagged their beards in unison when this mon 
strous suggestion was made, and by their murmurs 
of agreement interrupted the awful silence which 

" That silence did not last for long. Once more, 
but with stronger decision, with larger hope, there 
arose from the vast assembly the same tumult of ap 
plause. Every man rose to his feet. Someone began 
to sing, then all sang in unison their famous hymn, 
which asks in stirring words and air whether one 
Hussein shall die and asserts with the utmost vehe 
mence that if this most unfortunate event should come 
to pass no less than twenty thousand inhabitants of 
the peninsula province of Bar-el-sul would demand a 
full explanation of the occurrence. The words might 
not seem apposite to a stranger, but in the dignified 
and strongly national atmosphere of Izmar their 
purport is well understood. They can be suited to 
almost any occasion of popular passion, and at this 
moment most undoubtedly might be interpreted to 
mean To Eblis with the Salt Tax. 1 

I was by this time frozen to my marrow. I was 
bewildered. I could hardly doubt the friendship 


between Tarib and myself. I had shown him so many 
favours. Even now, as I looked at him, I found him 
very sympathetic and so familiar ! I could not 
doubt the force of familiar converse, I could not 
doubt my hosts and colleagues, the Councillors, who 
had for now three years sat with me round His Majesty 
in Divan and worked with me as one of the Chief 
Ministers there. 

; The next words slightly, but only slightly, reassured 
me. They were more after the style I knew so well, 
when, in the past, the national glory in doing nothing 
had been expressed with peculiar skill. The Lord 
Doubler assumed a piteous expression and his mouth, 
the shape of which might now be compared to that 
of a horse-shoe, opened. Let me not stir you up, 
my friends/ said he, to a violent anger. We can 
leave froth and vindictive folly to the pitiful peoples 
of the mainland. We in Izmar, thanks be to Allah, 
will never lose our dignity in mere brawling. Let us 
confine ourselves to constitutional means, the only 
ones whereby anything practical can be accomplished. 
Applause also met these sentiments, more subdued, 
indeed, than that which we had first heard, but 
sincere. My friends around me/ and he smiled on 
all the Councillors, including myself, will deliberate, as 
we always do, for the public good, and you will find 
that our recommendations thus laid before His Majesty, 
with the ensuing Proclamation, will be the beginning 
of better things. We cannot say that all this evil 
shall be redressed at once. We are a practical people, 
as I think I have remarked before. You have indeed 
cried to me for redress ; but we are, I say it again, a 
practical people. We do not attempt the impossible 
or tear up the ancient framework of our State. Step 


by step is our motto. One thing at a time. The 
advance of His Majesty s subjects in freedom and 
happiness has increased in breadth by imperceptible 
degrees from one decision in the past to another, as 
our great poet has so admirably put it ; and again, 
not once or twice in the far from smooth sequence of 
our insular activities has the mere fulfilment of our 
daily tasks proved an approach to distinction/ These 
verses (which in the original form noble lines of poetry) 
made a fitting conclusion to one of those great 
speeches which from time to time determined the fate 
of Izmar. 

" We all rose ; the audience and the Councillors and 
the orator himself united in chanting that portion of 
the Koran which details Mahomet s visit to the moon 
(a religious exercise dear to this folk). We then sang 
an invocation to Allah that he might protect His Majesty 
the King and throw any hypothetical enemies of that 
monarch into the utmost confusion. Then we filed 
out of the Mosque in our thousands to the coolness of 
the declining day. That great, that historic, that fatal 
meeting had occupied four hours ! 

The Council was immediately summoned, and their 
first action, after their obeisance to the King upon his 
throne, was to assure me, individual by individual, that 
no idea of any attack upon me had been for one 
moment intended. 

It is, my dear Mahmoud/ said the Grand Vizier, 
placing his hand familiarly upon mine as it lay listless 
upon my knee, it is the principle of the matter which 
we must consider. That is it. He pressed my hand 
on the other side. For yourself, Mahmoud, as you 
know, we have a respect which exceeds all bounds, but 
we must move with the times. Things are not what 


they were. Evolution is better than revolution. If 
we do not reform ourselves, things will reform us. 
Mend it or end it. What did the Sultan Omar 
say in the thirty-seventh year of the Flight of the 
Prophet ? 

" These commonplaces fell mournfully upon my ears. 
I made no attempt to reply. His Majesty was pleased 
to say a few sympathetic words. The Tribune Tarib, 
who evidently felt embarrassed by my position and by 
his memories of our past friendship, most earnestly 
protested that his whole object had been to stem the 
growing dangerous demand nay, he would go so far 
as to say perilous demand ; nay more, a minatory 
demand ; yea, a threatening demand. Had he not 
stemmed the demand as he had it would have had 
tremendous consequences in the way of demand. The 
great lord whose special function on the Council was 
solemnity and who was known by the title of His 
Impressiveness, opened his mouth in the midst of his 
prodigious beard to say that he thoroughly agreed 
with these sentiments. 

" For my part I said nothing, but sat mournfully, 
seeing no issue and attending the pleasure of those who 
could do what they would with me and mine. I heard 
their debate : I was asked to sign their conclusions. 
I did so with a reluctant, unwilling hand ; and as I 
signed my name in its place and affixed my seal I 
glanced at the wording of the Proclamation and felt 
some relief to discover that the Salt Tax was not 
abolished, but only halved, while the loss so occasioned 
was to be made good by a tax upon revenue 
of one dinar in each hundred a very moderate 

" After this dreadful session (the date will remain 

MILH, OR "SALT" 103 

engraved upon my soul to my dying day ! it was the 
anniversary of the day upon which my grandfather, 
your great grandfather, dear boys, had been hanged) 
I paced up and down in my courtyard alone, no longer 
soothed by the ceaseless whisper of my beloved foun 
tains, in no mood for taking down any one of my famous 
scrolls, nor even for toying with the numerous Cir 
cassians whom I had imported at vast expense during 
the preceding months. My bosom and my brow were 
contracted and I was weary of life. 

" But after some hours of these mournful reflections 
some considerations of hope occurred to me. After 
all/ said I to myself, there must be ups and downs. 
Many a man has lost a fur tune and recovered it. My 
income is halved, but what remains is still ample/ I 
could yet call myself an extremely wealthy man 
among the wealthiest in the State. The small tax 
put upon my revenue I could not grudge, since it fell 
also upon the revenues of others. 

" But I was to learn what bitter truth there lay 
behind the oft-repeated boast of these people that 
they proceeded step by step, slowly, one thing at a 
time, etc., etc., etc. Not a month had passed but a 
modification was issued to the first regulation and it 
was ordained, in view of certain rumours, which had 
been heard in the market-place, that the tax on revenue 
should be of a more complicated kind. It was to 
begin, indeed, at one dinar in the hundred, but since 
it was harsh to apply even this small burden to the 
poorer citizens, only those receiving at least one 
thousand dinars should pay, and the proportion was 
to rise rapidly with the larger fortunes until, for such 
a man as myself, the proportion reached one quarter 
of the total ! But worse was to come. 


Yielding to the vigorous popular clamour, the tax 
was doubled for those of alien birth. For those 
whose income was derived in any way from the 
revenues of State the tax was doubled again. Excep 
tion was made for the Councillors, for (so ran the 
Proclamation) their salaries are paid by his Majesty, 
and a diminution of them would but take money with 
one hand to give it back to the other. I hoped for 
one wild moment that I should come within so clear 
a category. But no ! In a further clause it was 
specially indicated that this should apply only to 
salaries actually paid by the Treasury and not to 
annuities guaranteed by, or derived from, the public 
revenue directly and my payment alone was of this 
kind in all the Council ! 

" Still more was to follow. An infamous new 
regulation appeared whereby a man should pay, not 
upon that which he actually received, but upon that 
which he had received in the course of three years 
a space of time exactly corresponding to my presence 
in the island and attaching to my vast income of the 
past. It was clear that I was ruined. I made a brief 
calculation on the night after the last of these official 
Acts had been published. After taking this survey 
of my remaining wealth (I had already sold the most 
part of my movables, and had removed from my great 
palace to a humble lodging) I discovered that I had 
left in my hands, all told, less than one thousand 

" I knew not how to look upon the world. My 
whole being seemed to have departed. I watched the 
day fading, and with it faded my spirit. I returned to 
my poor room and, very late, lost, or half-lost, my 
miseries in an imperfect slumber/ 

MILH, OR "SALT" 105 

The old man concluded and bowed his head in a 
solemn silence. His young nephews appreciating how 
sacred a thing is death, especially the death of Money, 
glided on tiptoe out of the room and vanished. 


That is : 




WHEN the nephews next entered their uncle s 
presence at the Hour of Public Executions, 
it was in a subdued manner, as to a funeral, for their 
thoughts were full of that Great Loss, the story of 
which was in progress. They sat upon the floor before 
him in due order, and Mahmoud began : 

" Upon the dawn that followed that hopeless night, 
my hopes were again raised, only for my further 
bitterness and disappointment. I had risen before 
day and gone out of doors. A chance acquaintance 
ran across me as I paced aimlessly in the narrow 
streets of the city, watching the shadows shortening 
under the rising sun, listening to the clear voices of 
the water-sellers and to the cries of the mariners at 
their calling. 

This acquaintance was one learned in the law. 
Not that he was himself a scrivener, or pleader, still 
less a judge on the contrary, he was born wealthy, 
and those so circumstanced are (in Izmar) very much 
averse to the tedium of a profession. But in youth 
he had been compelled by his grandfather to read 
w"hole libraries of books upon the legal system of his 
beloved country, and had further been compelled to 
pay considerable sums to one of the most renowned 
pleaders of the day in whose office he had passed three 
miserable years. Seeing he was so educated, and 



knowing well my misfortunes, he kindly took me by 
the arm (I could not help suspecting a certain patron 
age) and said : 

" Alas, my poor Mahmoud ! How we do all feel 
for you ! And how we respect the way in which you 
have borne inevitable misfortune ! But though I 
praise you as much as any other for your conduct and 
resignation, do you not push it a little too far ? We, 
the free inhabitants of this our beloved Izmar, have 
a most glorious privilege, which is, that not the King 
himself (the glory of Allah be upon him) has any privi 
lege as against the humblest of his subjects, when it 
comes to the issue of law. Our judges, as you know, 
stand above all mortal frailty and are, as we devoutly 
and firmly believe, filled with the spirit of God Him 
self. Though His Majesty and his Ministers be your 
opponents in a case, that case will be decided with 
serene indifference to the position or wealth or power 
of the parties. You believe this, do you not ? he 
insisted earnestly, for doubts upon so final a doc 
trine of religion are horrible to the imperial race of 

" Yes, I believe it/ said I with a sigh, though I 
confess that my short acquaintance with misfortune 
had shaken me in many points of loyalty to my new 

" Why, then/ said he, do you not come into Court 
with your plaint ? Our lawyers have the skill to dis 
cover a claim in anything, and you may be sure that 
all that can be said in your favour would be allowed 
in the freest manner, and if there is a single loophole, 
the whole or part of your former fortunes may be 
restored at whatever cost. For it is a maxim peculiar 
to our island law that if a case is decided in favour 


of the plaintiff, then the plaintiff has the decision in 
his favour/ 

" I confess that my acquaintance with the manners 
and habits of the foreign people among whom I had 
had the wretched luck to be born had made me think 
it futile indeed to approach the august judges in a 
matter where a king was concerned, or to ask relief 
from State officials for what the State had done to me. 
He stoutly denied the idea I had that the judges were 
State officials. Said he : Have you never read the 
famous oath which every judge makes on taking office ? 
Do you not know how we elect him ? 

Yes/ said I, in tones which betrayed no enthusiasm, 
I know indeed how the judges are appointed and the 
oath they take. They are appointed (how often have 
I not seen the Firman signed in Council ! How often 
have I not affixed my own poor name to it !) they are 
appointed, as the rule goes, " by his Sacred Majesty, 
that is, by the familiars, the wives, and the secretaries of 
the Richest Men, indifferently." Such are the very 
words of the Statute/ 

You answer rightly/ said my friend, with a noble 
carriage of his head. Surely so impartial a source of 
office must make you feel secure ! On the odious Main 
land the king appoints his own judges : it is a tyranny 
to which we in Izmar have long refused to submit. 
Our Monarch is the ruler of free men ! He 
would disdain to influence an appointment. He 
leaves that to his gentry, and they, in turn, leave it 
to their women and other dependants. Thus we alone 
of all nations secure a Bench of judges wholly inde 
pendent ! But there is more : Have you forgotten 
the oath they take, my friend the oath they take on 
appointment ? 


" No/ said I, still wearily. I remember it well 
enough. Indeed, I have it all by heart, for I have read it 
a hundred times : "7 swear by the Almighty God and by 
the contents of this book that I will not depart from justice 
in anything, either for orders, or favours, or personal 
advantage, or any consideration whatsoever, save in the 
political interests of my class or family, of the Lawyers 
Guild to which 7 belong, or for such other considerations 
as may occur to me." 

" That is right ! said my friend in triumphant 
tones. Well, can you want a better guarantee ? 

" No/ said I, I suppose not/ 
/ Well, then/ he cried, rising, let me take you 
to a friend of mine among the most able Scriveners of 
the city, and be assured that whatever can be done 
for you will be done/ 

" I have no great part of my fortune left/ said I 
timidly, rising as he did, but unwilling to follow him. 
Fear nothing/ he returned heartily. Justice in 
Izmar is not bought and sold. There are, of course, 
certain necessary fees. But the law compels you to 
hire no pleader. You can appear yourself in Court. 
That freedom is one of our great privileges ; and, 
believe me, you will be heard as patiently and directed 
as honestly as though you were one of the greatest 
pleaders in the city/ 

" Half persuaded by such insistence, I followed my 
friend to a house where, seated in the midst of com 
mentaries upon the law, of metal boxes containing the 
shameful secrets of great families and the record of 
their indebtedness, sat an elderly man, whose face 
reminded me, I know not why, of a vulture. 

I have brought you, Kazib/ said he, a client. 
You will recognize him, I think/ 


" I do, indeed/ said the Scrivener, rising gravely 
and bowing to me. He is no less than My Lord 
the Councillor Mahmoud/ 

" The title is superfluous now/ said I a little sadly. 

" The Scrivener, however, continued to give it to 

me in his great courtesy, and when my friend had left 

us together, I poured out my story. As the more 

important details fell from my lips my host jotted them 

down upon a small tablet with a fine quill that he 

carried. When I had concluded he spoke as follows : 

Such a case as yours would appear first in the 

Court of Sweetmeats/ 

Of Sweetmeats ? said I. 

It is an old term/ said he. We love these 
historic traditions. 

" Exactly/ I answered humbly. 

Well, it would appear, I say, in the Court of 
" Yes/ said I. 

After it had gone to the Court of Sweetmeats, it 
would almost certainly be transferred to the Court of 
Wrecks, Lighthouses and Divorce, or to the Depart 
ment of Wills/ 

" Indeed ? said I. 

It is so/ said the Scrivener. Whichever of 
these dealt with it, an appeal would lie, of course, to a 
superior court, which is generally known as the Court 
of Mules/ 

Why is . . . I began. 

Oh, sir ! interrupted the Scrivener, with some 
impatience, these things are immaterial ! We must 
use such historic names. . . . From this Court again 
the appeal would lie, of course, to His Majesty in 
Council, which is the supreme authority in the land/ 



" What/ said I, to His Majesty in Council the 
very authors of the injustice ? 

Of course/ said the Scrivener. 

But/ said I, if the verdict is in my favour, what 
reason should I have for appealing ? J 

: None/ said he, simply. But your opponents 

My opponents are the King and his Council/ 
said I. 

In quite another aspect/ said the Scrivener, look 
ing on the ground and falling silent. : Under these 
circumstances/ said he, after a pause, you will do 
very well to proceed/ 

" But/ said I, in case these appeals . . . 
He waved his hands. We will not talk of appeals 
yet/ he said quickly. After all, you lose nothing 
by first instance. Have you your Charter with you ? 

1 1 said I had, and brought it out for him. He 
read it slowly, consulted a book for a moment, and then 
said : 

An excellent case ! (you may judge, my dear 
nephews, how my heart leapt at these words !) An 
excellent case ! . . . You have your Charter and its 
terms are clear. By it there is bound to be paid to 
you and your heirs for ever the revenue from the Salt 
Tax, and the issue will lie, I think, upon whether the 
clause implies payment undiminished and perpetual, 
or whether the recent Proclamations make a gumbo- 
rumbo of the original. 
" A what ? said I. 

" It is a legal term/ said he, a little wearily, and 
signifies a mixalum-malory or general contortation. . . . 
But let us not at this stage go into technicalities of that 
sort. We must first state our case. 


" Precisely/ said I. 

" My own fee/ said he, is fixed by statute, and I 
must ask you for ten dinars a nominal matter/ With 
this, before I could stop him, he seized a large metal 
disc, wet a corner of a parchment, put the disc upon it, 
struck it with a hammer, and then held out his hand 
for the fee. Luckily I had my pouch with me, and 
so, very reluctantly, paid over this first drop of my 
disastrous leakage. 

" Good ! said the Scrivener. We must next ask 
the opinion of two eminent Pleaders/ 

" Why ? said I. 

" The law demands it/ said the Scrivener. 

" But you have already given me yours, and told 
me it is worth my while to proceed/ 

" My opinion/ said the Scrivener, shaking his head 
vigorously, may serve to guide you, indeed ; but it 
would be altogether irregular to go into court upon 
that alone. So, I will draw up a statement, as we 
call it, and have it put before two men of the first 
standing it is always better in these cases to use the 
highest talent. In the long run it is worth while/ 

I asked timidly how much this further step would 
cost, and was somewhat relieved to learn that fifty 
dinars to each of these eminent men would be sufficient. 
He asked me to return on the third day when he 
would give me the responses ; and he particularly re 
minded me that I should upon that occasion not forget 
to bring with me at least 150 dinars. 
But why the other fifty ? said I. 
Stamps and fees/ said the Scrivener shortly, and 
then, with infinite courtesy, dismissed me from his 

On the third day I returned, bearing with me the 


150 dinars from my little hoard, which I put upon the 
Scrivener s table to save all further difficulties in the 
matter. He poured the money meditatively into a 
little metal case, beautifully engraved, and dating, 
I should say, from the second century of the Flight 
of the Prophet ; it was probably (to my practised eye) 
of Syrian workmanship. 

Here/ said he, are the responses. 

Have you them written ? said I. 

No/ said he. We must wait for that. The first 
Pleader, by name the Most Noble Ghadder, is of the 
opinion that you have a case founded upon the great 
principle of our Common Law, of which you, perhaps, 
as a foreigner, have not heard it is the principle that 
" The subjects of the King can suffer no wrong." But 
he warns you against relying upon the Statute passed 
in the first year of His Majesty s father s reign, called 
" A Statute for the Prevention of the Loss of Money 
by the Rich." For this has been the subject of so many 
contradictory decisions that it is a very poor ground. 
He says, further, that there are certain case precedents 
which are interesting, and two of which, at least, in his 
judgment, could be urged upon your side. In one of 
these it was decided that if a man had more than a 
certain income no Order or Proclamation should be 
regarded as capable of prejudicing him or reducing 
his wealth. The question would thus lie as to whether 
or no at the time when the first change took place you 
fell within these limits. The second Pleader is of 
an exactly opposite opinion. He says . . / 

" It is enough ! said I. The first learned Pleader 
shall be my guide. I am content to hear from him that 
I have a good case, which doubtless he will continue for 
me in court. 


" What ? said the Scrivener, in astonishment, 
do you suppose that such men lend their valuable 
services in court for fifty dinars ? 

" Evidently/ said I, as they have been so kind 
as to give opinions with such nicety ! 

" The Scrivener laughed as heartily as such men 
can, and begged me to be disabused. These are but 
the formal stages. The hiring of pleaders is quite 
another matter. Let me proceed to the second 
response. The second Pleader, the Most Noble 
Makhar who, it may interest you to know, is a negro 
by descent we have many such at our Bar, they 
have marvellous abilities, that strange race is of 
an opinion, I say, exactly contrary to the other. He 
thinks your chance under the Common Law very doubt 
ful. But he thinks you are secure under the Statute 
passed for the Prevention of Cruelty to the Important 
that is its general title dated from the first year of 
the reign of His Majesty s late father. All the cases, 
he says, are against you ; but the general principle 
of the Statute stands. 

" When I had heard all this I said, Oh ! . 

The old Scrivener gazed down at the floor between 
his feet, where he sat upon his rug, and I gazed down 
at mine, not knowing what next to say. 

My fee for this second interview/ said he pleas 
antly, after what he thought was a sufficient interval, 
is the same as for the first, ten dinars. 

I have not brought them with me/ I said, 
having only brought the 150 dinars previously asked 

It is nothing, My Lord/ he answered, waving his 
hand majestically (and again, I thought, as in the case 
of my friend, with a touch of patronage). We all 


know and respect your position of late Councillor, 
and I should be the last to press you. 

I begged him to wait a moment until I should 
return. I hurried to my wretched lodgings and quickly 
came back with the sum which he required. He put it 
into the little metal box. I thought he was ready to 
dismiss me, and I was about to ask on what date the 
case might first be tried, when he said, to my surprise : 
1 But we must first have Pleader s Opinion. 
But, Great Heavens ! said I, have we not got 

Why, no, said he. We have not yet a Pleader s 
Opinion. We have, so far, only the Opinion of Pleaders. 
And what in the name of Fatimeh and Katisha 
is the difference ? 

" Surely, said he, you have heard of the dis 
tinction ? The Opinion of Pleaders is the verbal 
response made to the Scrivener, but the law requires 
that another response shall be added in writing, and 
this we call Pleader s Opinion. 

" Once more I could find no other commentary but 
a cry. 

" And at what cost ? " I moaned in a hollow voice. 

He turned to a written list of fees, then to a special 
memorandum of his own. He made a short calcula 
tion upon an abacus and answered, three hundred 

" I kept my mouth from blasphemy and asked him 
when the sum would be required. 

" It is a mere formality/ said he, this written 
opinion, but we must have a record. 
Yes, yes/ said I. 

" And I will/ said he, take the opportunity of 
obtaining the same before you come again/ 


" Once more I returned to my disgusting rooms, 
took money from my secret hoard and, returning, 
put into the Scrivener s hands a little parcel of 300 
dinars. He dropped them thoughtfully through his 
fingers in little streams till they nearly filled his metal 

" It is a pretty box, is it not ? he said. I took 
it for a bad debt from one of my clients, who most 
unfortunately died by his own hand in a fit of melan 
choly after the most distressing disappointments in his 
suits at law. 

" And as to the date ? I said. 

" The date ? Once more he consulted another 
document, then clapped his hands for the slave who 
sat in his outer apartment, and having asked him a 
question in some incomprehensible jargon, received 
an answer no less mysterious. Then he turned to me 
and said : It will come on at some date after the next 
New Moon but one. 

Cannot I have a precise date ? said I, for I was 
thinking anxiously of my diminishing capital and 
wondering how long I could maintain my poor life 
before my cash should be completely exhausted. 

That is obviously impossible," he answered with 
a touch of indignation, which he evidently thought 
merited. No man can say how long the cases before 
yours will last, nor in what order it may please His 
Holiness the Judge to take them. It will probably 
come, by the way, said he, peering at another list, 
1 before His Holiness Benshaitan. 

With that I left him and waited my call to the 

The time dragged wearily enough. I ate most 
sparingly and bought no raiment, nor even any game 


to pass my time, but my little stock dwindled day 
by day. My hours were spent gazing upon the busy 
life of the port, or sometimes standing on the edge of 
the pier and staring out to sea, as though I could read 
in the distant mainland beyond the horizon some 
hopes of a better fortune and a life restored. Daily, 
as the time approached for my case to be heard, as 
the second New Moon grew with every evening brighter 
in the last of its crescent, I consulted officials of the 
Court. I discovered it was customary to give each 
some small sum of five or six dinars before they would 
answer a question. It was upon the twelfth day, the 
moon being nearly full, that the case before mine 
(which turned upon whether a man without means 
should owe for a debt or should postpone payment, and 
had lasted five exciting days) was concluded. I heard 
that the precedent created was of the first importance, 
but would be subject to appeal. 

The sun sank. It was with the morrow that my 
case was to be called. 

" I rose on that eventful day long before dawn. 
I put on my raiment with the utmost care, after having 
cleansed it with my own hands to make it as present 
able as possible, lest the poverty of my appearance 
should in some way prejudice me. I had already given 
notice that I would appear myself ; for the fees asked 
by the Pleaders were quite beyond the poor remnant 
of my purse. I must confess that I had been strongly 
dissuaded from such action, but I had no choice. I 
found a great crowd assembled, for my name was 
familiar to all through the position I had enjoyed in 
the past ; and it is ever of an absorbing interest to 
watch the miseries of another. 

" I took my seat at a place reserved for me immedi- 


ately opposite the bench. I noted on my right the 
Pleaders chosen by the Council, and beyond, among 
the spectators, not a few of my former colleagues. 

" The Pleaders were arranged in the vestments proper 
to their great function, resembling the priests of a 
religion, and bearing upon their heads, I noticed, what 
they never showed outside, a strange headgear of 
mule skin with twisted hair and long, furry ears. The 
Judge, I saw, was clothed in the most magnificent 
cloth of gold, inscribed with the sacred texts and loaded 
with furs of such rare animals as the sacred Rat, the 
white Jackal of Thibet, and the Skunk, and bore upon 
his head a crown, which he lifted three times as a salute 
to the Court, while all fell prostrate before him, mur 
muring in a buzz of low, prayerful whispers their praise 
and incantation to him as the representative of God. 
These ceremonies concluded, there was a bustle 
of men rising and taking their seats upon the rugs of 
the court, the Judge himself upon a sort of throne over 
looking the whole, and the proceedings began. 

A short man stood in front of the Judge s throne, 
who rose and piped in a shrill voice, Mahmoud claims 
against the King. He then sat down, and from sundry 
pushes and jerks which I received from my friends, 
including the Scrivener, who was kind enough to 
accompany me to the Court, I saw that I was expected 
to rise from my carpet and put my case. 

I said : Your Holiness and Voice of God (for 
such is the formula required, as a kind friend had 
warned me : and if one word be omitted the culprit 
is not only forbidden to plead but is thrust into a 
dungeon of the most noisome kind) . Your Holiness/ I 
opened, and Voice of God. I had from the King and 
his Councillors a Charter. It was given me as against 


one million dinars paid to them in gold by me on such 
and such a date. I shall show the Charter to you, 
and you will see there the promise that I am to receive, 
as against the payment I made, the revenue from the 
Salt Tax for ever and ever, so long as the State shall 
endure and the tax be levied. This tax has been in 
great part remitted, and by special imposts the remain 
ing part has been wiped out. I claim that this Charter 
gives me the right to the original revenue from the 
State in full. And I then concluded with the magic 
formula with which my friends had very kindly pro 
vided me, and that, Divine One, is my case. This 
formality completed, I sat down. 

I flattered myself I had done well, for all had been 
told with perfect ease, and, after all, there was nothing 
more to be said. But before I took my place, cross- 
legged upon my carpet, I handed up to those who 
served the Bench my original of the Charter, signed 
and sealed, the which I had consulted. The Judge 
rose from the throne where he was seated, put the 
Charter down carefully upon his throne, sat upon it, 
and ordered the case to proceed. 

In the chief of the Pleaders upon the other side, 
I was pleased to see an old guest of mine. He nodded 
to me familiarly, rose, and opened his statement, begin 
ning, as I did, with the ritual phrase. Your Holiness 
and Voice of God, said he, His Majesty and Council 
have instructed me. I admit that this is a case of 
peculiar subtlety and difficulty, nor do I doubt that 
it will employ many of my colleagues, not only in this 
Court but in superior courts, for many months to come. 
Indeed, to my certain knowledge, one of them has 
recently purchased a marvellous vehicle which travels 
rapidly of its own act without horses, a foreign 


invention, in which he would not have invested had 
he not foreseen the lengthy and lucrative nature of the 
case. But that is by the way. I only mention it in 
order to make Your Holiness understand that we have 
here to settle an issue which indeed could hardly have 
been brought before any Judge less divine than yourself. 
" There followed for about a quarter of an hour a 
fine passage upon the majesty of the law and the 
peculiar gifts and virtues of the Judges. But through 
the whole of it he insisted in every second sentence 
upon the gravity of the case and its difficulty. I 
was flattered and surprised. I had not thought that 
my opponents would make so much of me ; but, on 
the other hand, I remembered that their payment was 
at the charge of the public and that every day added 
to the sum they received. He next touched upon the 
folly of the Salt Tax, its iniquity, its old-fashionedness, 
its absurdity, and after an hour of this paused a 
moment to pull down and smooth the long furry ears 
of his headgear. 

In the second hour he brought in the very words 
of the Charter. He first recited them, for ever and for 
ever, so long as the State shall endure and the salt tax be 
paid. He insisted, with repeated emphasis, upon the 
word and . In the third and fourth hours he quoted 
150 instances of cases in which this word had completely 
changed the character of a document, as, for instance, 
in the famous case known as Abraham s Will, where 
the testator left all his property to his beloved wife, 
Fatimah, and the remainder to her mother. Next, he 
quoted the case known as the Degree of Dignity, 
when it was ordered that all those apprehended for 
speaking disrespectfully of the Grand Mufti should be 
brought into his presence and decapitated. Again 


(what interested me very much, for it was connected 
with Money), the terms of the statute, now over one 
hundred years old, by which the Councillors of the King 
receive one dinar per day and whatever other sum 
they see fit to vote themselves out of the taxes. 

It was the word and said he, that made the differ 
ence in all these cases. He might* call witnesses to 
show that the word was inserted in the Charter to 
render the phrase abortive, absurd, nonsensical and 
altogether of no effect. But, alternatively, supposing 
that the word and but confirmed my case in the deci 
sion of His Holiness, then he pleaded that the Charter, 
having been obtained by a stranger, not a. subject of 
the King, was null and void. Supposing that it were 
upheld in spite of this, then, alternatively, that I, 
Mahmoud, was a subject of the King, a native born, 
and therefore subject to the King s decisions in Council. 
Finally, he concluded that in any case I must not win 
because, if I did, it would make His Majesty s Council 
and members thereof look a fool severally and collec 
tively, than which no more deplorable thing could 
happen to the State. Further, even if His Holiness 
should decide that it mattered not a rusty nail whether 
the Council were made to look fools or no, there was, 
anyhow, no money to pay me. This established a 
default contumax and a discharge in alias of the 
second degree. I give his exact words, for I noted 
them at the time, and could guess vaguely that they 
must be of grave import. When he got so far I noticed 
a great commotion among his colleagues. Every man 
in court wore an expression of strained attention mixed 
with admiration, and the Judge himself could not 
withhold from his august features something of the 
same tribute to this Genius of Debate. 


" Note also, Your Holiness, continued the Pleader, 
wagging his arched forefinger (which was long and 
pointed) very significantly in the air, the contumax 
in advert to subvert . . . and the same regardant. 
He added in a sort of sneering tone : I will not weary 
the Court with that (I could see that the Judge nodded), 
but even the plaintiff, learned as he is in the law, will 
admit/ and here he turned and addressed me with a 
very contemptuous expression, that plevin would not 
obtain in the case of recognisance, or at any rate in 
the defection thereof would be docketted as an endorse 
ment pursuant. An endorsement pursuant would 
stand void/ he continued, with a renewed interest in 
his tone (he now excited a feverish attention in his 
audience), for that is in the very foundation, I take it, 
of our law of terce and perinomy and has been upheld 
by a long succession of your Holiness s predecessors 
from the origins of our Sacred Lawyers Guild/ 

" Here again I thought I noticed the trace of an 
uncertain nod from the august figure upon the bench. 
; It comes, therefore/ concluded this eloquent man, 
in plain words, to this : we rely on the terms general, 
and the reference particular, each interconnected, 
and certainly maintain that guaranty lies overt. Here 
he stopped dead, and then added in simple and lower 
tones : That is my case/ Then he sat down. I am 
told it was one of the most marvellous efforts in all 
the history of the Lawyers Guild. 

Applause may be permitted even in the Mosque 
or the most sacred of Shrines, but not in the august 
presence of the law. Yet it was with difficulty that 
the enraptured pleaders present, the scriveners and 
their attendants, could forbear from open praise. 
A man whom I did not know and who sat next to me, 


cross-legged, upon his mat, one of the pleaders, I 
think (for he also wore the mule skin with long, furry 
ears upon his head), muttered to me that it was the 
finest opening he had heard since Achmet had opened 
for the Sheik-ul-Musrim in the Oyster Case, and that 
was saying a great deal. 

When this great Pleader had sat down there was 
a complete silence in court, which lasted for some time 
and seemed to me a little embarrassing. At last I 
perceived that I was in some way the object of too 
much attention, and my friend the Scrivener leant over 
with the suggestion that I should call my witnesses. 
But I have none/ whispered I over my shoulder 
in great trepidation. I have my Charter. That is 
enough, is it not ? 

" The Scrivener shrugged his shoulders as though 
in despair, and left me to my fate. 

Then was it that I heard the voice of the great 
Judge booming into my ears. What evidence is 
there for the plaintiff ? 

" I rose trembling. I have given you all I have, 
Your Holiness/ 

You have given me none/ thundered that tre 
mendous personage. All you have done is to make 
an opening plea/ 

" I thought/ stammered I, that I had stated all 
that I had to state/ 

" The Judge glanced round at his fellow-lawyers 
with a look of despair, then leaning forward, with a 
sort of tenderness in his tone, he said : Be good enough 
to mount the Sacred Stool reserved for the witnesses. 
With that a little block of wood was brought forward, 
and upon it I mounted, and so stood conscious and 
foolish before the Court. 


" His Holiness the Judge leaned back on his throne 
and surveyed me with the contempt I deserved, nor 
did he repress the little titter that ran through the 
assembly. An official squatted in front of the throne 
put a scroll into my hand, bade me put it to my fore 
head and repeat after him certain words, the sense 
of which I lost in my perturbation. But I did as I 
was bidden. After that I remained dumb. Well/ 
said His Holiness, sharply, after a long pause, how 
much longer are we to wait ? 

" Pray, your Godship, what would you have ? 
said I. 

" I would have your evidence/ said the Judge. 

" I have no evidence to give/ I tremblingly replied, 
save what you have already heard/ 

" I have heard none/ said he, and again the titter 
went round the court. 

" Moved to action, I repeated exactly what I had 
said before, that the words were what they were in 
the Charter, the clause was what it was. I repeated 
it point by point. 

" The Judge turned to the Pleader who had just sat 
down and said : Now, brother Selim/ whereupon my 
former friend and guest rose, looked me up and down 
in a very offensive manner from head to foot three or 
four times, and cried : 

You drunken scoundrel ! Do you still maintain 
the abominable falsehood which you have had the 
insolence to lay before the Court ? 

I said there was no falsehood, but the truth. 

The truth ! he sneered. Remember, pray, 
that you have taken an oath in the name of the Scroll, 
and trivial as this may seem to a man of your depraved 
character, others take the matter more seriously/ 


" I stood silent under the rebuke and waited his 
further words. 

Well, well/ said he suddenly, where were you 
half an hour after sunrise on the fourth day of the Fast 
of Ramadan in the three hundred and seventh year 
from the Flight of the Prophet ? 

As I stood aghast at the question, he touched one 
hand significantly with the finger of the other and 
said, I do not wish to press you. 

" I have not the least idea/ said I. 

The Pleader glanced significantly at the Judge 
and then continued : 

" You haven t the least idea ? Can you tell me 
approximately where you were ? 

" No, I cannot/ said I. It is very long ago, and 
I was but a young and innocent child. 

" Here the Judge interrupted me sharply : We are 
not concerned with your young and innocent child 
hood. Answer the question, if you please, and make 
no speeches. 

" The Pleader consulted his notes, looked up to me 
again and said : You have told us the Charter was 
signed in your presence and delivered over to you. 
1 Yes/ said I. 

" Don t answer/ interrupted His Holiness, sharply, 
until you are asked a question. 

" No/ said I. 

" Take great care, witness/ said His Holiness in a 
menacing voice. Take very great care ! 

" Thank You, your Holiness/ said the Pleader. 
And now, sir/ said he, addressing me in a very firm 
tone indeed, as though he had caught red-handed some 
thief creeping into his household, will you please tell 
us where is that Charter now ? Can you produce it ? 


" His Holiness is sitting on it/ said I, simply. 

" Here the Judge almost rose from his throne, so- 
strongly was he moved. 

" Were you not a layman and naturally ignorant 
of the forms of the Court, I should condemn you to 
some very severe penalty/ said he. r I make allowance 
for your lack of custom ; but I warn you, you may 
go too far/ 

" I will pass over the last remark, witness/ con 
tinued the Pleader in dignified tones. I think you 
were not quite yourself when you made it. Will you 
be good enough to answer my question ? Where is 
the Charter now ? 

" Well/ said I, all bewildered, " I handed it up for 
His Holiness to see what my case was, and to the best 
of my belief he- 

" Silence/ thundered the Judge. Brother Selim, 
I am afraid we shall get no further on this tack. The 
witness evidently does not or will not understand your 
drift. Allow me to ask him a question/ He then 
turned with a sort of false kindness upon his face and 
said to me in measured tones : What we want to know 
is, where is the Charter upon which you claim ? 

I put it into Court . . . / I began. 
At this the Judge gave a little gesture of despair 
and sighed. Then he spoke. 

It is a principle of the law of this country/ said 
His Holiness, leaning back in apparent weariness as 
though he were instructing a child, I should have 
thought a principle known even to the meanest of 
His Majesty s subjects, that a document must be proved. 
Have you proved the Charter of which you speak ? 
1 1 don t know what you mean, Your Holiness/ 
said I, in very genuine fear. 


H ( 



The Judge leaned forward towards me and said 
in measured tones : Remember that I am treating 
you leniently. I am doing what I can for you, I 
understand the difficulty of your position. Take care ! 
Take very great care ! Brother Selim, have you any 
other questions to ask ? 

" I have one or two of some consequence, if I may 
be allowed, Your Holiness ? 

Certainly, brother Selim. Pray continue. We 
are all ears/ 

" The Pleader cleared his throat, again consulted 
his notes, looked up to me and said : What were your 
earnings in games of hazard during the year concluding 
with the opening of the last Feast of Ramadan ? 

" I answered that I had no exact calculation, but 
that I had small stomach for such pastimes, and might 
have won or lost anything between one hundred and two 
hundred dinars. 

" Take care, take very great care ! said His Holi 
ness, addressing me again. 

" Between one or two hundred dinars/ said the 
Pleader, in a musing sort of voice, and I noticed that 
the Judge was taking a note of my reply. Now be 
good enough, you base fellow, to answer me this and 
remember you are upon your oath have you been in 
the habit of cheating at cards, loading dice, stacking 
packs, palming coins, and in other ways overreaching 
those who joined you in what they thought to be an 
innocent amusement ? 

" I was about to reply when he again thundered at 
me : Remember you are upon your oath/ and His 
Holiness was moved to add : 

" Take care, witness, take very great care ! 

" No/ said I. 


" At this moment I was astonished to see everybody, 
including the Pleader, sit down suddenly, cross-legged, 
upon the floor, while I stood thereupon my little block 
of wood, most terribly conspicuous. It was due to a 
gesture from the Judge. 

" So far/ said he, in a solemn and majestic manner, 
I have allowed things to take their course, because, 
as I have said, every latitude must be allowed to one 
who is foolish enough to plead his own case. But the 
dignity of His Majesty s Court forbids me to be silent 
upon hearing this last reply to a question of the most 
profound and searching kind, requiring an adequate 
reply. The witness has insolently answered No ". 
He then turned to me and said, with a severity that 
thrilled me to the marrow : ( This is a Civil Court ; but 
remember, sir/ and here he raised his voice in a very 
terrible manner, I can impound documents and pre 
sent all that you have said to the Lord Prosecutor. 
( Yes, Your Holiness/ said I, now thoroughly at sea. 

Proceed/ said the Judge, simply, to the Pleader. 

( I have only one more question to ask/ said the 

Proceed, proceed, brother Selim/ said the Judge 
with geniality. 

( Do you or do you not suffer from the itch ? 

1 My lord/ said I, am I really to reply to- 
His Holiness interrupted me with a violence 
which I little expected from one in so exalted a posi 
tion. Answer the question ! he shouted, answer 
the question at once ! 

" Well/ said I, to tell the truth, I have some little 
affection of the sole of my left foot, but I con 
ceive that with careful attention and proper medical 


That will do/ said the Pleader, putting up his 
hand. We have heard all we need to hear/ and he 
sat down again upoa his mat. 

Any rebulgence ? said His Holiness, looking 
round with a pleasant smile upon all assembled. 

I had no idea what was meant, but my friend the 
Scrivener passed me up a little note, saying, Do you 
carefully re-examine yourself so as to undo the effect 
of this terrible cross-examination/ 

It was all Greek to me, but grasping at a straw 
I addressed His Holiness, and said : 

" Oh, Voice of God and Justice upon earth ! I 
would like to ask myself certain questions. 

By all means/ said he graciously. Let me 
inform you what is the custom of the Court. You have 
first to stand and ask yourself the question ; you shall 
then stand up again and reply to it. 

" Kneeling, I struck the pavement of the court 
three times with my forehead as is the custom, and 
rising again turned towards the empty space upon the 
little block of wood and said : 

" Now, witness, remember you are upon your oath ; 
did yeu or did you not receive the Charter from the 
King and his Council in the terms you have mentioned? 

" I then leapt upon the little block of wood and 
turning to the place I had just occupied, I said : 

" I did/ 

" I then jumped down again (luckily I was still a 
young man and the exercise did not affect me or cause 
me loss of breath) and I asked : 

" What did you do with that document ? 

" I leapt upon the little block of wood again and 
turned to the place I had just occupied and answered : 

" I brought it into court/ 


" Once more did I take up my place on the floor, 
standing beneath the little block of wood. 

" Having brought it into court, what did you do 
with it ? 

" I returned to my little block of wood, faced the 
place I had just occupied and said : 

" I handed it up to His Holiness/ 

" The Judge then spoke, I have had enough of this 
and I refuse to waste the time of the Court longer. 
It is in my power to condemn you to the King s 
dungeons for ever, and I may say that never in my long 
experience of our august Courts have I come across 
anything to parallel your repeated insolence. I 
have already told you that you have not proved your 
document and therefore for the purposes of this Court 
it does not exist. Stand down/ 

" The words stand down signify in the technical 
language of this great people sit down/ and can 
only be disobeyed under the most fearful penalties. 
I at once obeyed and resumed my place cross-legged 
upon the mat. 

The Judge was now free to give his decision, but 
first he turned to the Pleader who had opposed me and 
said in the most genial tones : 

Brother Selim, you have, I take it, proved your 
document, especially the word " and " ? 

Oh, yes, my lord/ answered he, in a satisfied man 
ner. I have further interpleaded for secondary and 
excised the four principal terminants, all of which are 
duly stamped, passed, filed, recorded, exuded, denoted, 
permuted, polluted and redeemed/ To each of these 
words the Judge nodded with greater and greater 
content, and then asked : 

Do you call any further witnesses, brother Selim ? 


f I call none/ replied the eminent man, for if I 
do the vile plaintiff would have an opportunity of 
cross-examining them and that would give away my 
whole case/ 

1 I think you have done wisely/ said His Holiness, 
by way of an obiter dictum. Things shall therefore 
turn upon the Charter alone/ With these words I 
perceived by the rustle all about me that the last 
phase of the trial had come and that my fate was 
sealed. I thought I had observed in the manner of 
its conduct I will not say a bias, but a sort of atmo 
sphere unfavourable to my claims ; for though it was 
impossible to conceive that any personal or other 
feeling could affect His Holiness s mind, yet I dreaded 
his decision. None the less I awaited that decision 
with some interest, for, after all, nothing is certain 
until it is concluded. 

The judge put down his crown, assumed a headgear 
which resembled that of the Special Pleaders but 
gilded, and with the interior of the long furry ears 
carefully painted in silver by way of contrast ; for such 
the Custom of the Law demands when a decision is 
about to be delivered. 
He spoke : 

" From the evidence that has been laid before me 
it is clear that there exists, or has existed, will exist, 
or may exist, or can exist or at some other time ex 
isted, demurrer notwithstanding, some Charter wherein 
the word AND is the point at issue. That form was 
admitted by the defence, I think ? All the Pleaders 
rose and bowed and then again were seated upon their 
carpets. But I gather (and here he looked sternly at 
me) [ that there was no acceptance by the Plaintiff. 
We have, I take it, an operative clause wherein the 


operative word is AND. AND so long as the salt tax 
endures." Many points brought forward in defence 
of the Crown I am compelled to overlook. It is the 
glory of our courts of justice that they exercise an 
absolutely even-handed dealing between man and 
man, and that His Majesty himself is bound by their 
decisions. (Here there was a murmur of applause which 
was instantly suppressed.) I make therefore so bold 
as to say that the Counsel engaged by his Majesty on 
this occasion have said many things with which I do 
not agree and others which I shall not take into account. 
It is equally clear that the case presented by the 
Plaintiff is, as he put it, no case at all, and that were I 
to rely, as I shall not, upon the strict forms of law, he 
is already out of Court. At this all looked severely 
on me and I felt my stature singularly diminished, 
and crouched lower upon my mat. His Holiness con 
tinued : 

I shall treat this matter as though I had heard 
no pleadings upon either side, for this I take to be the 
true attitude of a judge concerned with justice alone. 
We have, then, this operative " AND ..." this 
decisive word AND . Here His Holiness leaned back 
on his throne, cast his eyes upwards towards the rich 
arabesques of the ceiling, sighed and continued : 

The word AND is among the most significant of 
our ancient, glorious language. It has been used upon 
innumerable occasions. Our industrial classes, our 
nobility and even our middle classes, as well as the 
poor in their humble station, are compelled to its 
continual expression. It is, if I may so express myself, 
part of the heritage of our race. He would indeed 
be poor in spirit, and weak in his allegiance to the 
imperial traditions of this island, continued His 


Holiness, warming to his subject, did he not appre 
ciate the majesty, the significance, the grandeur upon 
occasions, the full effect and indeed the awful weight 
of this little word/ and here he dropped his voice, 
"AND." "AND so long as the salt tax . . .," etc. 
That is the point. AND ... I trust I have made 
myself clear/ 

All heads nodded in unison, while a song in adoration 
of His Holiness was sung by an acolyte who entered 
at this stage of the proceedings (as is customary in 
courts of law), and a hidden chorus, distant, but just 
heard, added a short canticle of praise. His Holiness 
waited for the conclusion of these ceremonies, which 
are invariably interpolated during any important 
judgment, and then continued : 

" AND so long/ What is the significance of that 
word " AND " ? I take it that it is affirmative, nega 
tive, copulative and restrictive ; but that is not all. 
I think it is also constructive, instructive, and de 
structive. It is only by using it in all these ways that 
we can fully appreciate its preponderant significance 
in the issue before us/ Once more all heads nodded 
and even I was constrained to follow the custom, 
although, in my ignorance, I could make neither head 
nor tail of the learned argument. The lawyers present 
bore a look of such intense absorption that one would 
have thought their lives depended on what was to 

" The Plaintiff in reciting the clause/ said His 
Holiness quite suddenly, emphasized a very singular 
phrase " for ever and for ever/ and also those other 
words, " so long as the state endures," but I noticed 
a curious hesitation upon his part when he came to 
this word AND/ 


" Here some one in the back of the court yawned 
in so audible a manner that there was a sudden inter 
ruption signalling an ejection, and I learned later that 
the unfortunate man had perished as he deserved. 

" I appreciate fully/ continued the Judge, that 
my decision will, subject to appeal, determine in great 
part the future of this ancient State. Since we are 
destined soon to acquire and administer the whole 
world it may be said that my humble remarks upon 
this occasion will deflect the history of the human 
race itself. No one can be insensitive to such a 
responsibility. My duty is clear. The word " AND," 
standing as it does between the first and second parts 
of the phrase on which is based Plaintiff s claim under 
the Charter, clearly determines that claim. But to 
determine is to terminate. The Plaintiff has there 
fore no rights here, in the sense of the word rights 
as used by the august body of our Statute and Com 
mon Law. He is at the mercy of the Crown, and his 
claim is disallowed. He may think himself lucky 
that I have not taken advantage of my full powers 
and had him whipped at the cart s tail or thrown down 
a well. Let record be made and all adjudged as 
decided. With this His Holiness majestically rose, 
granted a benediction to the kneeling multitude, and 
was about to leave the Court when the Pleader Selim 
interrupted with the words : 

What about costs, your Godship ? 
With the Judgment/ said the judge wearily over 
his shoulder ; and I noticed to my dismay ten pens 
busily scribbling and wondered what was coming next. 

Indeed I was weary of the whole affair and desired 
nothing better than to hide my humble head in my 
poor lodging and on the morrow with what was left 


of my poor little hoard at the most 400 dinars to 
leave for the mainland, and there with this tiny 
capital attempt to reconstruct my fortunes. 

" It was not to be as I imagined. Even as I 
approached the door of the Court I was approached 
by the Pleader Selim, who repeated that phrase hitherto 
meaningless, What about costs ? and found I might 
not depart from the building till I had provided 350 
dinars, leaving me with exactly fifty to face the world ! 
Luckily I had my pouch upon me. I hurriedly counted 
out this last poor remainder of my wealth ; then, 
fearing to return to my lodging (the rent of which I 
could no longer discharge) I paced hopelessly along 
the quays through the evening and on through the 
darkness, until, about midnight, I espied a master 
mariner about to board his vessel. 

" For what sum/ I asked him, will you take me 
on deck to the mainland ? 

" It is a hundred dinars, he said roughly. 

" I have it not/ I answered. My stomach was 
already clamouring for food. I have but fifty dinars, 
and some part of that I must reserve for my nourish 
ment lest I perish before reaching land. 

" Well/ said he a little less roughly but with no 
humanity in his tone, you may crawl up forward 
among the cordage if you like and give me forty-five 
of your coins ; the five you shall keep to feed yourself 
with when you land. 

" I thanked him humbly for his unexpected kindness. 
I tried to find some warmth in the chilly night, huddled 
amid coils of rope on the little deck forward. At 
dawn the last of the crew came aboard, two great sails 
were hoisted and we passed out upon the sea. 

" Before the sun was high we had dropped over 


the horizon, and left behind us the palaces of the land 
where I had thought to find security and repose. There 
I was, I who had so lately had the world at my disposal, 
a beggar, hopeless for the coming days, and wondering 
where on my landing I should find food to keep me 
living for a week together." 

As Mahmoud was concluding there rose a loud wail, 
piercing and prolonged which startled him and all the 
file of boys aligned cross-legged before him upon the 
floor. It proceeded from the youngest of the nephews. 

" What is it, my little fellow ? said his uncle 
in real alarm. 

" Ah ! Ah ! " sobbed out the poor infant. " Lost ! 
lost ! All lost ! All that lovely money lost ! I 
cannot bear it, uncle. I cannot bear it ! and he 
burst into floods of tears. 

" For heaven s sake," said the old man, rolling upon 
his seat in his concern for the child, " do not take 
on so ! There is no cause for such a bother. You 
make too much of it. It is but part of a tale. Do you 
not see how I have been restored to great fortune ? 
Are you not in this palace of mine with all my slaves 
around you ? and splendid hangings upon the wall ? 
Come, look about you and do not mix up these words 
of the past with real things that you can touch and 
see to-day." 

The little boy tried to stifle his sobs, but they 
returned with increased violence. 

Oh, uncle, to think that you, who had been so 
rich, should become so poor ; to think that those who 
gain great wealth cannot keep it for ever ! Consider 
all your wealth ! Oh, it is terrible, the death and 
destruction of it ! Throwing himself down upon the 
marble floor he buried his face in his crossed arms and 


kicked either foot alternately in the air, in the violent 
paroxysm of his grief. 

His uncle was so moved that he knelt beside the 
child to soothe him. 

Pray, pray, restrain yourself," he said. " You 
will do yourself some hurt. I admire you, my dear 
boy, I perceive your singular gifts. More than all 
your elder brothers do you seem to know that which 
the young should seek in life. You understand 
indeed what others do not always, all that money 
means. But it is terrible to see one of your age 
suffering such agonies from a mere recital of its loss. 
Indeed, I am moved to console you," here the old man 
was tempted to put his hand into his pouch and offer 
some small coin in consolation to the child, but he 
recollected himself and continued, " to console you 
with a pleasant draft of cold water, which I am afraid 
I forgot to tender to you and your brothers when I 
last had the pleasure of your attendance." 

The little fellow sat up, still sobbing, but attempting 
to dry his eyes and moaning from time to time " All 
that money ! All that lovely money ! 

Pure, cold, crystal water was brought round and 
gratefully sipped by the boys, who when they had thus 
refreshed themselves at their uncle s expense, thanked 
him warmly and disappeared with reverence from his 
presence just at the moment when the voice of the 
Muezzin was heard from a neighbouring minaret boring 
the Faithful to tears with its repeated call to prayer. 


That is : 




AS Mahmoud s nephews filed in just after the hour 
of public executions to hear the continuation 
of their uncle s absorbing tale, they wore an expression 
different from that which he had observed on their 
faces during so many days. The thought of this great 
man subjected to misfortune like any other, and passing 
through the trials of actual poverty, had shocked their 
young and sensitive souls. They had been trained 
indeed, even in their short experience, to the idea that 
they and their poor father must suffer contempt ; but 
that the head of the family should ever have passed 
through such things shook their faith in the world. 

The aged merchant, a little concerned with their 
appearance, warned them that what he had to tell 
them, not only upon that day but later too, would be 
concerned with no happy relation. " These were, my 
children," said he, " the days of my dereliction. They 
served to humble me, and often when I have occasion 
to turn a poor man out of his house or to prosecute 
some starving widow for debt, or to see to the imprison 
ment of one who has failed to keep some contract I 
may have imposed upon him, I sigh and chasten myself 
with the thought that I myself might (but for the 
infinite goodness of my God) have been in his or her 
position. Though, frankly, I cannot say, considering 
the ineptitude of such people, that I can ever imagine 



them in mine." Having so prefaced what he had to 
tell, the merchant proceeded : 

"I sat down, then, in the bows of the boat on that 
miserable night watching for land. I tried to make 
some plan, as is the habit of men of my temper, but 
none would form itself in my fatigued and unhappy 
brain. One asset I had and one only (over and above 
the few coins which could hardly last me for more 
than a day) and that was the dress I wore ; for I still 
carried the fine clothes of my former rank. I had 
worn them on the occasion of the trial ; indeed, I now 
had no others. 

" This accoutrement and a certain proud manner of 
bearing which I had acquired during the past years of 
my affluence saved me from insult ; though I am not 
sure that if I had been asked to carry some package 
for the wealthier of the passengers I should not have 
accepted the opportunity of reward. I spent about 
half my poor handful of cash on a meal ; with the 
remainder I purchased provision for the evening. 

" The town in which I found myself was happily- 
too busy and populous a mart to pay attention to a 
chance wanderer. Lacking all direction, trusting as I 
had trusted long ago to fortune or rather to Providence, 
I betook myself after the worst heat of the day had 
passed, to a chance track which led first along the river 
side, above the harbour, and afterwards climbed 
through the gardens of the city to the hills beyond. 

"The countryside was here of a nature more fertile 
than the countries through which I had hitherto passed. 
The dense trees of the woods made a grateful shade 
for me in that silent afternoon, and when I had passed 
beyond these on my upward journey I came to a great 
rolling land of sparse grass, feed for cattle. 


" It was hired out, it would seem, to graziers ; 
for I saw some little way off standing in the attitude 
of a shepherd and holding his bent staff beside his 
vigorous old frame, a very remarkable figure. I 
approached him without any set idea of what my 
adventure might lead to. I only knew that things 
could not be worse. Perhaps I had somewhere in 
my mind a guess, half-formed, that I could be of some 
service at some small wage. At any rate I accosted 
him. I have seldom seen an expression more haughty 
and vigorous and marvelled that it should be that 
of a hired man. He was perhaps sixty years of age 
with a strong bearing, eyes luminous and almost 
fierce, and a face in outline that of a hawk, or better, 
that of an eagle. And as he stood there he watched, 
grazing before him, a great flock of sheep, well fed, 
and fat ; of a high breed, excellent to behold. There 
were at least a thousand of these and it would seem 
that the religion of this part (for they also were true 
believers) did not forbid the use of bells. For I heard 
a multitudinous tinkling come up from the flock as 
it moved. Very far away the plateau made an edge 
against the sky, and between that horizon and the 
summit to which I had reached, folds, with water 
pools concealed in them, diversified the great sweep. 
But there were no trees. All was bare and majestic 
under the sky as the light melted towards evening. 
The shepherd returned my salutation, accepted 
my offer to share the very scanty food which I had 
purchased and so sat down before me on the ground 
to eat. 

As we ate we grew acquainted. I told him frankly 
enough of my misfortune, though not in detail. I 
was, said I, only the day before yesterday a rich 


mant To-day I am what you see, and my last piece of 
silver is gone. He looked at me gravely and said that 
there was One Who gave and Who took away. His 
Name be exalted. These sheep, for instance/ said 
he, are the property of a man contemptible in every 
way, foolish, irascible, a bad master and (one would 
have thought) an unwise merchant. Yet he pros 
pers while I, the shepherd, remain upon a hire too 
small to permit me to save. And so it has been for 
years ! 

r I have not/ added he a little bitterly, the 
faculties for that sort of life which my master pursues. 
At any rate I am quite certain of this : that by any 
common judgment of men he is the inferior and I 
the lord. Yet here I am ! . . . The world deals 
harshly by poor men/ He looked at me to see if the 
words sank in. 

As he thus spoke (his sadness seemed to relieve 
my own with a sense of our common dependence) 
the sun now near the horizon warned us of prayer 
and I was glad indeed to see that this new chance 
companion was as much alive as I to the duties we 
owe our Maker. He fell upon his knees and bowed to 
the evening prayer as I did beside him, and for some 
moments, as we recited the sacred formula, all worldly 
thoughts passed from my mind and I think from his 
also. We rose at the same moment from this exercise, 
each filled, I felt, with brotherhood. I was the first 
to break the consecrated silence. 

" I did so by asking him whether he had never 
thought, in the course of his long years as a shepherd, 
how money might be made by the stealing of his 
master s sheep, or by some trick with them ? Whether 
he had never had the opportunity to blackmail his 



master, or in some other way to increase his fortune ? 
For it seemed intolerable to me that a man such as 
he described his employer to be, should be wealthy 
while he were poor. He shrugged his shoulders as 
though in despair and answered simply : 

" In the distant past I often attempted such things ; 
but invariably have I failed. Indeed, the master 
graziers of this part know me well for one who has 
attempted at their expense every kind of bold chance, 
and I would never have employment from them were 
it not for my skill in lambing and in every other part 
of the trade. As it is they watch me rigorously. 
Their spies are everywhere. I could not, I fear, make 
one dinar by any one of the methods you suggest. 
I have in my time tried them all. I have forged 
receipts ; I have sold sheep which afterwards I entered 
as dead from accident ; I have falsified the returns of 
the lambing ; I have sometimes raised a sum of 
money upon the flock under pretence that it was my 
own. My only reward has been fine and imprison 
ment and cruel torture. But the truth is that I have 
not the faculties of the merchant. They are, I take 
it, granted to some and withheld from others. For 
my part I have despaired of their exercise and shall 
never turn to them again. 

His words filled me at once with pity and with 
hope, and (since ingenuity is never long absent from 
men of my temper) a scheme suddenly appeared. 

Why should not we/ I said, after I had gathered 
wood and lit a fire to meet the approachng darkness, 
enter into partnership ? I think I may say without 
boasting that I possess in a singular degree those 
faculties which you say you lack. God made me in 
every part for a merchant. I can conceal, distort, 


forestall, outdo, bully, terrify and even boldly snatch, 
far better than any other man I have come across. 
Only once in my life have I fallen into the weakness 
of trusting others and as you see I have paid bitterly 
for that weakness. So I spoke, not noticing that I 
was yet again committing the same error in suggesting 
partnership to a mere stranger. But in truth Allah 
had blinded me ; purposing to make me taste mis- 
fortunte to the full that I might the better adore His 
later beneficence. 

" All these talents I have in abundance and more 
also, I continued, for God has been very good to 
me. You, on the other hand, have what I lack ; 
that is, a knowledge of the towns round about and of 
their markets ; of the value of sheep ; of the system 
which has been organized for the catching of ingenious 
men ; and of how that system may be avoided. 
Between us, then, we have all the things needed for 
our success. Come, let us determine with the very 
next breaking of the light to try our fortunes together. 

" After I had thus spoken the shepherd looked at 
me long and anxiously over the fire, the reflection of 
which shone in his piercing eyes. I wondered whether 
he were wavering and to what conclusion he would 
come. At last he spoke, slowly enough. 

I am not willing, said he, I am not willing 
. . . but I will take the risk. The worst that can 
come to me I have already suffered. At the best 
and he pointed towards the vast flock of sheep now 
a mass of glimmering white as they lay in the darkness 
at the best we should each acquire provision for 
many years. 

" Oh ! fool ! thought I, provision for many 
years ! Does he not know how money breeds ? 


But in open speech I said, Yes, we will divide the 
spoil and go our ways. I with my share and you with 

" Precisely/ he answered, with a curious smile 
which, for the moment, intrigued me. You with your 
share and I with mine/ 

" As the night passed I entertained him with the 
details of my plan. Since it was I who had to do the 
work while he would have to command (from his 
knowledge of the trade), I proposed that he should be 
the master and I the man. To all this he nodded 
assent. He was also prepared to meet me in my 
suggestion that he should put on my fine clothes and 
I his rags, the better to carry out our parts. This 
will/ said I, seem strange while you are driving the 
sheep, but as we approach the town and market to 
which you shall direct me, if there be one nearby, I 
will attempt to take over your task and under your 
direction I may at least complete it by bringing the 
flock to the place of sale. I will speak of you as the 
owner. My fine dress which you wear will carry out 
that deception and deceive all into thinking that it is 
an honest transaction. The sum upon which we shall 
agree with the purchaser shall be paid to you ; and 
not until the whole transaction is over, and we well 
out of the gate, shall I ask for the division, which I 
take it should be in equal halves. 

To all this also he agreed ; only asking whether 
I would not like (as, after all, I had only just met 
him) to have the money paid to both ? 

I urged him to keep to my plan. His receiving 
the money as master would seem natural and excite 
no surprise. We could divide in private at our leisure 
To my surprise he made me a low bow at this ; 


but I put it down to custom, and went on with my 

" For the sake of a rough calculation I asked him 
what sheep were fetching, and he said that in the 
neighbouring Ksar, which might be called a straggling 
market town or a large village, there was to be held, 
it so happened, the very next day a sheep market, 
where we must find ourselves shortly after sunrise. 
It was distant less than an hour across the uplands. 
The purchasers came from all parts, and as the bidding 
was likely to be brisk we might expect for the flock 
as a whole not less than 1,800 or even 2,000 pieces of 
gold. As he spoke I already felt that capital in my 
possession, or, at least, half of it, and I thought 
things would go hard with me if after our first success 
ful transaction I could not carry on my partner to 
another and another, until at last I had manipulated 
him out of his share also. 

" We discussed all further details through the night, 
rehearsed our parts, and had the whole perfect when 
the first glimmer of dawn showed in the East beyond 
the edges of the hills beneath a waning moon. 

" We rose ; the flock was gathered ; our garments 
exchanged ; and I could not but admire my com 
panion, now that he was dressed in what seemed a 
manner so much more suitable to his carriage and 
features. He looked a very Master, a prosperous 
lord of men, and I congratulated him upon the effect, 
which, I assured him, would allay all suspicion, since 
all would take him for a very great lord indeed. 

" Again he smiled that intriguing smile and bowed 
too low. But I was a little nettled at his affecting 
to play the part thoroughly by addressing me in sharp 
tones and with the air of a superior. I, for my part, 


shivered in the dawn in the miserable rags which I 
had taken from him, and holding his staff awkwardly 
enough tramped on in my character of the servant. 

" Soon, just as the sun rose, the dusty hedges and 
the cracked yellowish walls of the Ksar appeared in a 
hollow through which ran a muddy stream. From 
the enclosures within, rose the bleating of many sheep 
which had been driven to the same market, and we 
observed upon the folds of land beyond several flocks 
arriving in convergence upon the same place. 

" My companion told me while we were still out of 
earshot that an early arrival would allow us to watch 
the movement of prices and, what was of more value 
to us, might enable us to get away before opportunity 
for pursuit should arise. 

He gave me my last instructions, recalling all 
that we had arranged in the night. I, for my part/ 
said he, as the first sheep of our great flock entered 
the narrow streets, shall fall behind you and take my 
way to the Pavement outside the Mosque reserved for 
the principal merchants, and there with all due dignity 
and honour await your report, while you go forward 
to the market place beyond the Mosque : when you 
have got a purchaser, come back and find me. For 
such is here the custom. It is the servant who nego 
tiates, the master who confirms. The servant leads the 
purchaser to his superior, and that superior takes the 
purchase money. Do you, for your part, cast around 
until you hear the conversation of the bidders and see 
that you sell at a price not less than 2,000 pieces of 
gold. He then gave the number of our flock all told, 
which he made me repeat to a single point in ewes and 
in lambs. When h^ had said this he fell behind me 
and went up a street which led to the Mosque ; while I, 


in some doubt of my capacity, but putting what bold 
face I could upon the matter, went straight before 
me along the broad way toward the market beyond. 
There I drove all the flock into a great pen, of which 
certain were reserved for the vendors in that mart. 

The market soon filled with buyers. They came 
in little groups, prodding the sheep, feeling the wool 
and sometimes looking into their mouths ; and the 
flock which I had the honour of commanding was the 
most admired of all. I was asked by several if I 
would not sell singly ; but estimating the eagerness 
of the buyers I shook my head and said that I could 
not sell for less than a reserve sum of two thousand 
pieces of gold, nor could I break the flock. I added 
that it was a pity to do so as it was a pedigree flock, 
every single animal being descended from the famous 
ram which had spoken in a human voice to the Holy 
Hassan three hundred years ago by order of the Most 
High. I admitted that this origin made little differ 
ence to the mutton, but I pointed out its extraordinary 
effect upon the wool. 

With that the bidding began and I noticed with 
great pleasure one tall, dark, very thin man among 
the rest, slow of gesture, fixed of eye, who never took 
his looks from my face and who, just after each last 
bid, would raise it by fifty pieces of gold. He was not 
to be beaten. One competitor after another dropped 
out. At last when the magnificent sum of 2,832 
pieces of gold had been bid by the mysterious stranger 
I clapped my hands together as the signal and used 
the formula Heaven has decided. The stranger 
approached me, drawing from his girdle a reed and a 
small horn of ink. I thought we were about to sign 
the transfer it seemed to me an odd formality, seeing 


that he had but to drive the beasts away and leave me 
the bag of gold. I was undeceived. He presented 
me no charter of transfer, no deed, but a strange 
piece of writing such as I had not seen before and asked 
me for its counterpart. I was startled and a little 
confused. What counterpart ? " said I. 

" Do you mean/ said he in clear tones, so that the 
curious bystanders should overhear, ( that you have 
no permit ? 

" At this the audience tittered, and others, scenting 
amusement, crowded round to gaze and follow. 

" Have you no permit ? he repeated severely. 

" I felt myself growing hot and confused under the 
laughter which followed ; and even alarmed when I 
heard one buyer say contemptuously to his neighbour, 
They ve caught another of em ! 

" I confessed that I had never even heard of such an 

1 * Follow me, said the stranger grimly, and 
whether from curiosity or from a conviction growing 
in me that he had authority, I followed humbly enough, 
leaving my large flock bleating in its pen. 

The stranger (for he now showed that he had upon 
him the keys of the market) locked the gate of the 
pen, appointed (another proof of his authority) a 
slave to stand by and see that no one interfered with 
the property I had transferred to him, and motioned 
to others to fall in behind us. He then led me 
away, and I was more concerned than ever to notice 
the strange smiles of those who saw the little procession 
which we made, he going first with his great staff, 
I treading behind. 

He led me to where the Sheiks of the neighbour 
hood, the principal sheep owners and magistrates, sat 


in solemnity before the Mosque ; an awe-inspiring 
company. Grand and splendid among them, in their 
very centre and clearly the most revered of them 
all, I perceived my late companion the shepherd, all 
dressed up in my own fine clothes, but having now 
added ornaments reserved for him, and looking for all 
the world like the king of the place. 

" At our approach he turned an indignant glance 
upon me, rose to his feet, and addressing the stranger 
who had captured me, cried in a terrible voice : 

" Officer ! Do you bring me yet another of these 
evil-doers ? Whose sheep had he driven off ? And 
is it a case of a forged permit or what ? 

I already saw how the land lay, and I quailed to 
think what was before me. The owners I rightly 
guessed had suffered from sheep stealing ; had 
established permits, signed by them, in order to check 
fraudulent sales ; had plotted to catch the chief 
culprits, and this perfidious man had disguised himself 
as a servant in order to catch such, and had caught 
me. The officer who had arrested me spoke : 

" My lord/ he said, we have caught this ruffian 
-pointing to me- selling your sheep without any 
permit at all ! He must have driven them through 
the night. By the law which your Council proclaimed 
last year, just after the Fast, his punishment lies in 
your hands. The owner has the determination of it. 

" To my astonishment and horror my former 
companion looked on me with a dreadful face of 
scorn and said : Tell me all, that I may apportion 
the punishment due to him. I have had him in my 
employ for but a short time. I mistrusted him from 
the first. Tell me all! 

" I have so found him selling your lordship s 


sheep. They fetched nearly 3,000 pieces of gold/ 
answered the officer grimly. He shall make an excel 
lent example for, my lord, he is the first whom we have 
caught in this market trying to sell without a permit. 
There can be no doubt (I have witnesses to it) that he 
proposed to take the purchase money and (perhaps 
with some accomplice whom I have not traced) 

to fly/ 

" On hearing this my former companion, clenching 
his hands and showing as intense a passion as his 
dignity would allow a magnificent figure in those 
clothes of his (my clothes)--cried, What ? Is it 
possible that one whom I have nourished, tended and 
befriended should be guilty of so abominable a crime ? 
How wise we were to make the regulation ! How 
excellent and zealous are you in your office thus to 
have found the first culprit who attempted theft in 
this place ! How admirable that he should be brought 
to justice before he could consummate his crime ! 
How marked is the work of Providence -here he lifted 
his eyes to heaven which has given him up to us 
for an example ! Come, let us cut off his head with a 
blunt saw/ 

" The officer who had thus traitorously caught me 
bowed low and said, ; Hearing and obedience ! But 
if my lord will take council I would speak/ 

What is it you would say ? said my companion, 
who resumed his seat but slowly and seemed displeased 
at the interruption. 

My lord/ said the official, " I suggest that if you 
cut off his miserable head with a blunt saw, though 
doubtless it would have a good effect for the moment 
and strike terror into the hearts of those here who see 
it, so that never more shall sheep be stolen from this 


market, nor ever more shall we suffer as we have 
suffered in the past, yet it would be of slighter effect 
than what I shall propose. For to hear of a man s 
execution is one thing, but to hear his own relation 
of his sufferings is another. I propose therefore 
that he shall be beaten at great length but not to the 
point of death ; on the approaching of that consum 
mation let him be released to crawl away and tell 
his story throughout our countries to whoever will 
listen. Such an example would be of far more service 
to the owners, my lord, than his death would be, 
and I promise that he shall be beaten in the most 
expert manner to the advantage of all posterity/ 

" Even as he advised so was it done. I was given 
the bastinado without mercy until I thought I should 
have expired, and then under every circumstance of 
ignominy I was turned loose with a week s provision 
of coarse meal into that deserted country, to spread 
terror among the servants of the wealthy owners and 
by my example to deter them from ever attempting 
to play tricks with their masters goods. 

"I, who from my youth have abhorred the ill use of 
servants, I who had founded once so great a fortune 
and proved so kind a master to hosts of dependants, 
I in my ingenuousness and simple heart could not 
have believed that such trickery existed in the world ! 
I had been wholly duped ! 

" As I limped from village to village, begging my 
bread, I heard the whole story and it exactly confirmed 
the conclusion I had reached when I first stood trem 
bling before the Sheiks at the Mosque. 

" The shepherd in his poor clothes was the richest 
sheep owner in the country. He and his fellow- lords 
had for some years past suffered from surreptitious 


sales, they had appointed officers to watch the markets 
and even so had not always been able to recover 
the purchase money from their agents. They had 
therefore as I guessed instituted a system of 
Permits so that no man could sell in the market 
without their signed licences and so that each man so 
selling could be detected as a thief by the officers of 
the markets. But how should I, a poor stranger 
from over-sea, know anything of this ? The black 
ness of the treason wounded me even more than the 
sufferings of my bastinado. I almost lost my faith 
in man ; by the Everlasting Mercy I did not lose 
my faith in Heaven ! . . . Nothing, my boys," said 
the old man, his voice trembling, as he remembered 
this terrible passage of the past, " nothing but Religion 
supported me during the fearful days that followed. 
I think I can say with humility that one less founded 
in a firm reliance upon his Maker would have grown 
embittered. I might have turned into one of those 
useless people who, as the result of misfortune, become 
railers, nourishing a perpetual quarrel against mankind. 
But our Holy Religion stood me in good stead, and 
as my wounds healed and as my wanderings led me 
further from the scene of my torture I recovered so 
much of my spirits as once more to attempt what might 
have seemed impossible ; I faced the world again. 
It would seem that those for whom Heaven has high 
designs, those for whom, like myself, it intends the 
highest positions among men, must in the divine scheme 
pass first through the fire and the ordeal. Happy the 
men who (like myself) profit by such visitations and 
retain unclouded their childlike trust in God." 

Amen," murmured the eldest of the nephews. 

What was that you said ? " cried Mahmoud sharply ? 


" I said Amen/ Uncle," answered the lad in humble 
tones. His uncle scanned him narrowly. 

" Well," he muttered, " I suppose you are too much 
a fool to have meant it ill. ..." 

At this the strident nasals of the Muezzin suddenly 
shrieked from the neighbouring minaret and the young 
lads with unaccustomed rapidity vacated the great 
merchant s apartment. 


That is: 




WHEN Mahmoud s nephews reappeared before 
him at the hour of public executions it was 
in a certain weariness of spirit ; for though they knew 
that the fortunes of their uncle must subsequently be 
recovered in the narrative (since there he was before 
them, rolling, or, as the phrase went in Bagdad, 
dripping with it) yet the blows of fate had fallen 
upon him with such violence in the recent tale that 
something of his then despair had entered their own 
souls. They sat down therefore with hanging heads 
to listen, as they feared, to little better than the 
further advance of intolerable things. 

The old man began in a subdued voice of lamentable 
recollection : 

I wandered on through the bare uplands, miser 
able, weak, penniless and in rags. So far had my soul 
fallen that on the seventh day I came near to omitting 
my prayer at even . . . but I thank Heaven that this 
temptation was conquered ! I knelt down painfully 
upon the little carpet which was my last possession 
and submitted myself to the will of Allah. 

As though in answer to my prayer, and while I 
still knelt there, I saw afar off the figure of one who 
moved, as I could see from that distance, with a 
carriage of leisure, and I hoped I dared to hope- 
that in answer to my prayer, I will not say a victim, 



but, at any rate, some provender was to be afforded 

I hastened my steps to catch up the stranger, 
and as I approached him remarked with pleasure his 
fine clothes and stately manner. I have here, said 
I to myself, some Important Man, some one doubtless 
unused to the base necessities of commerce ; simple, 
noble in mind, straightforward, generous, amply 
provided : the very companion whom I should desire. 
I turned over in my mind (as I slackened my steps for 
a moment, so that he should not yet observe my 
arrival) various schemes whereby I might excuse my 
intrusion upon his solitary walk. At last I hit on that 
which seemed to me the most agreeable to his supposed 
circumstances and to my appearance. I strode up to 
him and bowing low asked him whether his Greatness 
could direct a poor wretch to a certain village the name 
of which I had heard and which lay more or less 
in the direction I had taken. 

The stranger turned to salute me and with that 
I felt an added delight. For he was the very thing 
I had prayed. Young, simple in manner, courteous, 
probably, by his dress, independent and wealthy ; 
probably, as our language has it, his own father/ 

" He wore rare ornaments ; his cloak was of the 
finest wool and the cord that bound his headdress was 
interspersed with silver. 

By way of reply to my request, he told me in a 
pleasant, deep voice, speaking after the fashion of the 
rich, that he was himself strolling towards it so far 
as his own house and farm, which lay between, and 
that there he would put me upon my way. I expressed 
my gratitude, and my fear lest so bedraggled a com 
panion might be distasteful to him. He smiled and 


assured me that he loved nothing better than con 
verse. He had visited a neighbour that morning 
to ask advice on a certain set of pear trees of his 
which had not been doing well. He had left his servant 
to follow him with his mount, preferring this hour s 
stroll back homewards in the cool of the sunset hour 
which had now descended. 

" As we went we talked of many things and I frankly 
told him the story of my life ; for I have discovered 
that nothing is more pleasing to men of his station 
than the account of how another has been reduced 
from wealth to poverty. 

I was not always/ said I, as I strolled by his side, 
the deplorable figure you now see me. Indeed, but 
a very few months ago I was the over-manager of a 
great fruit plantation some hundred miles to the north 
of this place. I had come with good recommendations 
from my former employers, planters of the Gulf. I 
had left these my original masters with the best of 
characters and the kindest of recommendations, and 
only because the eldest son of one of the partners had 
to be put into the business and there was no room for 
both of us. I had accumulated in some years of useful 
service a sufficient little capital which my kind masters 
were so exceedingly generous as to double, and I 
was able to put the total sum into the new business to 
which I had been recommended. For it is always 
better, I added, to have some stake in the firm. 

You are right, said my new friend in hearty 
approval. There is no greater error than to offer a firm 
such intangible things as talent, honesty and the rest. 
Valuable as they are, if they are unaccompanied by 
metal they are without substance and void. 

With an expression of great humility I applauded 


his reply and told him how flattered I was to find that 
my judgment had jumped with his. But, alas, Sir ! 
I continued deferentially, There is no controlling the 
current of our destinies ! For there is One above * 

I know, I know ! agreed my companion hurriedly, 
in the tones of one to whom the sentiment was familiar 
and at the same time doubtful, and I continued : 

By that Divine Will/ I went on, was I visited. 
Heaven saw fit to try its servant. In the course of 
my management I was sent to negotiate the purchase 
of a cargo of lime-dressing at the nearest port, for 
use upon the plantation. On my way I had the mis 
fortune to be robbed at an inn of the pouch of gold 
that had been confided to me. I ought, of course, to 
have returned at once and told my partners and 
employers what had happened, and to have offered, 
perhaps, to repair out of my own property what might 
look like the result of my own negligence ; but I was 
afraid lest I should not be believed, and again lest, if 
I were believed, the loss should prejudice me in their 
eyes as an incompetent. What I did was to go for 
ward to the port that very day, penniless, and trust to 
the credit of my firm to complete the transaction I 
had in hand. 

" But once again I was unfortunate ! I carried 
through the negotiations with success and purchased 
the cargo upon very reasonable terms. I delayed to 
the last moment the payment of earnest money and 
then, when delay would no longer serve, I said care 
lessly, that full payment would follow by messenger 
within two days. The merchant s face darkened. He 
told me that he had been led on by false pretences, 
roughly bade me begone and would hear no more of 
the transaction. He refused to sign, and indeed left 


me abruptly, saying that he was off to seek another 
purchaser and telling me at the same time that he 
was seriously considering whether or no to summon 
me before the magistrate for having thus lost him a 
whole day upon a false pretence. 

" He was as good as his word, and I received a 
summons from the magistrate that very evening to 
attend his court the next day. 

" It was unfortunate that during the night another 
theft took place in the inn where I lay. The bundles 
of those staying at the place were searched. My own 
alone contained no valuables of any kind. One would 
have thought that such a circumstance would have 
spoken in my favour. It was exactly the other way. 
It was argued that a man who will stay in an inn 
without the means of paying must be a thief of some 
sort and that since the sum stolen was not to be found 
elsewhere it was probably I, thus manifestly suspect 
of trickery, who was the culprit. In my fright I 
attempted to escape. I was caught and roughly 
handled, with the final result that I appeared in the 
magistrate s court covered with blood, my garments 
torn and in such a posture subjected to a double accu 
sation upon the part of the innkeeper and also upon 
the part of the foreign merchant who appeared upon 
the original charge. 

In such distress I had no avenue of escape save a 
reference to my honoured firm, the name of which, 
though distant, was familiar to the Court. The 
magistrate expressed his doubt that I had any connec 
tion with such important people, and asked me if I 
would risk the sending of a messenger to my so-called 
partners. I said I would do so gladly, but during the 
two days interval of the messenger s absence I was 


closely confined in the public prison, where I regret to 
say the foreign merchant had the heartlessness to 
come and make faces at me through the bars, and 
where, having no money to give my gaolers, I was 
treated with the utmost harshness. 

My misfortunes were not at an end. As luck 
would have it the firm to which I belonged and of 
whose books I had the sole management, undertook a 
surprise audit on the very day of my departure, and 
discovered a most serious deficit in one item which the 
partners, in their ignorance, could not account for. 
Had I been present I could easily have explained what 
had happened. It was but an advance which I had 
made to a customer whose transactions with us were 
of the highest value. As much in my own interests 
as in those of my partners I was well justified in risking 
the money. I had acted foolishly perhaps in refusing 
to take a receipt or to enter the matter in the books, 
but the thing was only for a week and after so many 
years of prosperity I could not dream of so small a 
thing turning out untowardly. However, there it was. 
My partners hurriedly sent after me and learned to 
their dismay that I had left the first inn upon the road 
without payment, and giving no account of my 
future movements. They had sent a man post-haste 
on a swift horse. He had covered the distance to the 
port in twelve hours, but (as I was now in prison), 
could discover nothing of me in the town nor find any 
cargo I had bought or, indeed, any trace of me. He 
returned to my partners, as they had instructed 
him, upon another beast as swift (having sold his spent 
mount) and it was just as they received this grave news 
of my apparent absconding, just while my partners 
grew more and more convinced of my supposed guilt, 


that the messenger from the magistrate arrived and 
completed the accusation. They answered, not by 
coming in person, but by sending a letter of the most 
violent kind, calling me a notorious thief, expressing 
their pleasure that I had been laid by the heels and 
begging that, so far as they were concerned, the 
magistrate would not spare me in any punishment he 
might see fit to inflict for my other escapades. Mean 
while (they said) they would not trouble him to enter 
judgment for the sum I had taken, since they had 
replaced it out of my capital in the firm, which nearly, 
or exactly, made good the deficit. 

" You may imagine, my Lord, the result of all 
this! The magistrate read the Court a sermon on 
the justice of the law which spared no man for his 
rank or commerce, and concluded, You have before 
you the sad spectacle of a man of substance fallen 
through temptation into poverty and disgrace." The 
foreign merchant contemptuously waived his action, 
the innkeeper with equal contempt expressed himself 
satisfied with the punishment I had already under 
gone, claiming only my clothes by way of payment, 
giving me these few rags in exchange. With yet 
another admonition the magistrate dismissed me. I 
went out from the court a broken man, wandered 
aimlessly southward, doing a little work here and 
there upon the farms, and I am now seeking the next 
village with the object of offering my services. 

Such, Sir/ I concluded, is my tale. . . . Here 
am I, with every commercial aptitude, and full training 
in the various transactions of business (but especially 
in the management of plantations) for no fault of my 
own unable to exercise these talents, rehabilitate my 
character, and recover my position in society. 


The rich young man was deeply touched by my 
story, every word of which, I am glad to say, he 
seemed to believe ; for I was not deceived in my reading 
of character and I had rightly guessed that a man under 
thirty, honest-faced and clearly enjoying leisure and 
wealth would be singularly open to the reception of 
any romantic tale that might be offered to him. 

It is indeed fortunate/ he answered, that you 
understand plantations. It is a matter in which I 
am for the moment interested. I have an orchard 
which is not doing well/ He had evidently forgotten 
his first sentence on our meeting which had given me 
my clue. But rich and generous natures are like that 
in early youth : hence, also, are they bad players in 
games of skill. 

Come with me/ he continued, and pass the night 
in my house yonder (it already lay before us in the 
hollow) ; the conversation on your past life, which is 
doubtless full of adventures, will entertain me at 
my meal. To-morrow I will see that you have occupa 
tion upon my farm, and after a short experiment I 
think we shall get along very well indeed together, 
particularly as I have recently planted by way of 
experiment a number of pear trees which as I think 
I just told you are not doing well. I thought myself 
able from my general knowledge to conduct this orchard, 
but I regret to say that some of the trees have died, 
and that the rest are in a poor way. I evidently lack 
the special experience required. Since plantations are 
your special line you may be of the greatest service to 
me in this little matter. 

Here, my dear nephews, I v/as in something of a 
quandary. This, I am told, is a difficulty we men of 
affairs come across often enough in the conduct of 


our negotiations. It is our duty, as I need hardly tell 
you, to add details of a corroborative kind to the 
statements we have to make in affairs. To omit 
any detail is to court suspicion. On the other hand, 
one never knows where the most necessary fictions may 
lead one. Here I was confronted by the task of bring 
ing to fruition an orchard ... an orchard of pears 
. . . and I knew nothing whatever of orchards and 
of pears far less. 

" I replied, therefore, with the greatest enthusiasm 
that the opportunity was exactly what I should have 
desired. Orchards were the one kind of plantation I 
had most carefully studied, and of all fruits pears were 
those upon which I had specialised most. Once I 
had seen the kind of tree my kind host had planted I 
should certainly be able to tell him what was the 

" It was almost dark when we came to his enclosure, 
but so eager was he on his new idea that he led me at 
once to the back of the house where the trees were 
planted. Very sickly indeed did their gaunt twigs 
look in the gloaming. A good third of them were 
shrivelled and dead, the rest drooped in various degrees, 
one only gave a promise of fruit out of some three 
hundred stems. The rich man surveyed the ruin 
and gazed at me anxiously while I held my chin in 
my hand as though meditating upon the best course 
for him to pursue, but in reality considering my own. 
Then it was, my dear infants, that I received from 
on High one of those illuminations which have always 
been, with me, the forerunners of great things. I 
deliberately kept the rich young man waiting for the 
space of a long prayer and then said suddenly and with 
determination, Scrap the lot ! ... Excuse me, I 


added, ( I have used a phrase current in the barbaric 
cities of the north, which is somewhat corrupt in 
speech. My intention was to express to your High 
ness my conviction, formed upon this rapid survey 
in gathering darkness, that the orchard can no longer 
be saved, for I am sure my judgment will be confirmed 
when I make a more thorough examination to-morrow 
morning in broad day. I see also, even in this light, 
that the type of tree you have planted is wholly 
unsuited to the climate. May I be so bold as to ask 
where you purchased the stock ? 

I was assured/ answered my new friend a little 
shamefacedly, that it was stock grown within this 
very region and peculiarly adapted for our dry climate : 
for the drought of our position which, as you know, 
stands too high for waterways. 

I shook my head. You were deceived/ said I. 
Who sold you this unsuitable stock ? 

1 He told me that it was a sound friend of his who 
had gone off for a while upon a journey, that he was 
quite sure he had not intended to deceive. Perhaps 
there was some error in the consignment shipped to 
you/ I answered cheerfully as we turned towards the 
house. This kind does admirably in the River Low 
lands, and I take it your friend s servants by some mis 
take sent your consignment to some lowland client and 
his to you in these uplands. Anyhow, the orchard is 
manifestly doomed, as you can see, and for my part 
I make no doubt that the trouble has come from the 
use of a wrong species. Now what you want here/ 
I continued rapidly, turning over my chances well 
in my mind, and plumping for technical terms, is 
a pear neither palinate nor sublongate, nor, for that 
matter perforate, but daxullic, or, as we sometimes 


call it in the trade " retarded " at any rate in the 
second and third stirp. 

" I see ; I understand ; I apprehend/ said the 
rich young man. For thus, have I discovered, do 
rich young men carry on a conversation which leaves 
them entirely at sea. 

1 I do not/ I hastened to add, insist, of course, 
upon the Persian stock, though that is the best. It 
might be difficult to procure and it is very expensive. 
What I mean is something of the same family. I 
should advise, as a stock more easily purchased in 
local markets, the pear called by the merchants " The 
Glory of Heaven." 

It was introduced some few years ago by my 
friend Nasredin and is now a favourite stock on the 
Plateau of Reshed where the climate is very similar to 
yours. It bears a large, luscious fruit, highly market 
able, and maturing early ; and it can be purchased 
at a moderate expense. I will, if you like, go for you 
to the nearest provider of such things and see what 
I can do. 

My host thanked me profusely. He remarked 
how small the world was and at the same time how 
manifest were the workings of Providence. He blessed 
the day when he had met me. For though (he said) 
the matter of expense did not weigh upon him, he had 
made a particular point of success in the matter of 
pear trees, and but for my advice he really did not 
know what he should have done. 

He was so keen upon the affair that he pressed me 
to start for the nearest nurseryman the very next 
morning. There was an excellent nursery plantation, 
he said, not more than half a day s ride away to the 
West. It stood, with the owner s house in the midst, 


just outside the gates of the town to which he would 
direct me, either going himself or sending his bailiff 
with me. He would also send a wagon for the convey 
ance of the young shoots. Indeed, as the meal pro 
gressed (for we were now dining), he grew more and 
more enthusiastic on the matter and could hardly 
bear the delay of the night. I saw which way the land 
lay and saw fit to increase his keenness. I therefore 
told him it was quite impossible to act with such 
speed. The young shoots/ said I, must not be left 
to lie untended and unplanted. We must first of all 
prepare the ground. The old trees must be dug up, 
the pits enlarged. It is the narrowness of the earthing 
that has been half your trouble, for the smaller root 
tendrils which we call trips are easily estopped in 
hard groundings. I see ! said he, sapiently. The 
ground must be well soaked/ I continued, and man 
ured with a full dressing of lime, and only when all 
this has been completed could I think of advising you 
to plant. 

" I paused to concoct something new, and the amiable 
youth filled the gap for me by murmuring : Precisely ! 
Exactly ! Now I understand. 

" I resumed : Further we must underpin the 
runners and work up the earth herring- wise. And 
then there is the daubing. ... It will be a matter 
of full three days work. On the fourth day I can set 
out before sunrise. You may take it that I will be 
back by evening, and we will, if you please, plant the 
very next morning that is on the fifth day lest the 
stock should suffer ; for I have always found it/ I 
added profoundly, of invariable service to plant 
immediately. I have indeed lost in the past one or 
two most valuable sets of trees pear trees by delaying 


at this season of the year so much as twenty-four 
hours before putting them in the ground. 

" As I thus spoke he nodded frequently, admiring 
my talent and knowledge of these affairs, and I took 
occasion, as evening wore on, to ground him yet more 
deeply in this fascinating subject, which I had already 
begun to feel was mine. 

" The next day with the first of the light we both 
of us set out to the orchard. He summoned his work 
men and our labours engrossed us for many hours 
during which I fed his enthusiasm with renewed tales 
of marvels in the way of fruit-growing and especially 
of pear trees. That particular pear called The Glory 
of Heaven increased wonderfully as I proceeded 
until at last it had grown to such a size that each 
individual fruit was as large as a child s head, and half 
a dozen of them would fetch a piece of gold if (I 
was careful to add) if they are properly packed ! 
For I regret to say that, simple as the detail is, the 
neglect of good packing has been the ruin of most 
speculators in this line. 

During the second day of our labours I dilated 
upon other details of the trade which occurred to me 
as I went along. I especially insisted upon what I 
called the maximum point, and for this he was all ears. 
There is a limit, I said, to your plantation, 
after which the expenses of management begin to eat 
into the profits earned. A first small speculation of 
300 trees, such as you have here, is, of course, a mere 
bagatelle. It would provide you with amusement, 
but no appreciable income. The most profitable size 
of orchard is far larger. ... In such a situation as 
yours, said I, looking round with the air of a connois 
seur, and with such soil as this, and with that I took 


up a clod and carefully crumbled it in my fingers, 
1 possessing acidulated properties of this type, but 
corrected by some slow exhaust of porphyritic matter, 
it would need but a top dressing of bardulm and an 
occasional picketing of charcoal to make some 3,000 
trees produce a regular annual profit of not less than 
200 pieces of gold and that upon an original expendi 
ture less than double the amount. I would estimate 
your return with care and good fortune at quite fifty 
per cent., but at any rate you could calculate upon 
thirty per cent. But more than 3,000 trees/ said I, 
musing, would, I fear, be an error : the earnings 
after that get eaten into by expenses/ 

He interrupted me with the eager words : I should 

be happy I lifted my hand to check him and 

said, No ! I assure you, that even such a number as 
3,500 would be just beyond the line, and as you approach 
5,000 you would find the expense absorbing nearly all 
your profit. It is as great an error to over-do these 
things as to starve them. Let us fix the number at 
3,000 and the capital expenditure at 400 pieces of gold. 
Then I think you will not be disappointed/ 

The third day I spent overlooking the levelling 
of the ground and its last preparation, as also in 
making mysterious marks with little pegs and 
jotting down notes in a book : all of which excited 
the owner to the last degree, and left him (as the 
phrase goes) with his tongue hanging out for the new 

That evening my kind host after some little 
embarrassment made me an offer. Would I, he asked, 
share in the profits of the enterprise ? I at once 
refused. My decision surprised him : but, as he 
pressed the project upon me, I told him that gratitude 


was only a part of my decision. I owed him every 
thing ; he had found me it seemed a month ago 
indeed, though it was but three days in rags ; he 
had clothed me, fed me and, what was more, trusted 
me. His trust, I assured him, would not be deceived. 
I shall be content/ I concluded, with the salary 
proper to my position (he at once mentioned a sum, 
which I halved), but I will go so far as this; if, 
upon the opening of the fourth year, your profits 
shall be found to have exceeded what I have suggested, 
if you make in the three years more than 600 pieces 
of gold, at 200 pieces a year, which I suggest as the 
probable result, I will accept, though reluctantly, one 
half of the excess. For I am confident/ and here I 
put an especially serious tone into my voice, ( that 
we shall do better than I have said. I have ever held 
it my duty to give a conservative estimate and to avoid 
the disappointment of those who employ me. To 
this, among other things, do I ascribe the great success 
which attended me during my earlier years, and which 
only failed me through the deplorable accidents I 
related to you on our first meeting. 

" My host appeared a little confused at my probity, 
or rather, at my scruples ; but he told me that he had 
always found such errors to be upon the right side, and 
assured me that I should not lose by the austerity of 
my temper. Nor did I. ... 

We spent the rest of the evening looking at the 
illuminations in his fine library. I expressed myself 
enthralled by them all. I lingered with especial care 
over every representation of an orchard in these 
pictures, and spoke in the most learned manner of the 
various fruits therein displayed. As luck would have it 
we came to one particularly fine painting in which were 


delineated the most enormous pears of a brilliant golden 
hue interspersed with soft leaves. This/ I cried 
delightedly, is the very fruit of which I have been 
speaking ! How interesting ! How exciting ! 

Is that so ? t said my host, transported at the 
coincidence, Once more I must say it : how small 
is the world ! 

Yes, said I, it is that pear " Glory of Heaven," 
of which I have been speaking and which you may see, 
by comparison with the insects here portrayed and 
of the trellis work, to be most enormous fruit. Of its 
succulence I must leave you to judge when you shall 
gather your first harvest. Of its highly saleable 
quality in the markets of the north you will, I trust, 
soon have satisfactory experience. 

I shall indeed ! said my host, now quite beside 
himself with the combined emotions of the collector 
and the man of property. He blessed again and again 
the day he had the good fortune to meet such a man 
as myself. Summoning his bailiff he gave orders for 
the wagon to be prepared over night and the horses 
to be ready by sunrise. No, no, said I, an hour 
before sunrise, if you please ! I am determined, at 
whatever inconvenience to myself, to have the plants 
back here, at your house, on the night of the same day. 
I will risk no failure in this great affair ! Again he 
blessed and thanked me, and when his dependants 
were dismissed took me aside and prepared to count out 
the money which would be required for my expenditure. 
" You said 400 pieces of gold/ said he, as he 
disposed the coins in little heaps of ten upon the table. 
You had better make it 500, for there may have 
been fluctuations in the market since you last purchased, 
and it is good that you should have a margin/ 


" I told him I thought the provision a wise one, but 
that I would account for every penny when he should 
next see me. And this, curiously enough, was my 
true intention, though I could not have given him 
any very exact date for our next meeting. I wrote 
him out a formal receipt in spite of his protests, 
remarking that business was business ; and so that 
every formality should be accomplished I signed the 
document in the name of an old friend of mine, one 
Daoud-ben-Yacoub. I said I would further have 
affixed my seal had I possessed one, but placed as I 
was, no such instrument was available. 

" The ball of your thumb will do, said the young 
man carelessly. His words brought me up rather 
sharp, and it was not without trepidation that I 
acceded to this chance request. But once more the 
inspiration of Heaven served me. I dexterously sub 
stituted my middle finger for my thumb as I pressed 
the wax thereunder. This arrangement," said the old 
merchant, as he crossed the two fingers in the presence 
of his nephews, by way of illustration, I recommend 
you upon every occasion of life. It is especially useful 
in those tyrannical countries where the police take 
the thumb-marks of innocent wayfarers. I have 
used it a dozen times. . . . But to return to my 

I pattered on to my kind host as I pressed my 
finger down, and thus distracted his attention from too 
close a watch on my hand. This thumb mark/ 
said I, releasing my middle finger from the wax, this 
thumb mark is as good as any signature, I think ; for 
Allah has made it the sign manual of all honest men ; 
no two are alike. Remember, pray, I added laughingly, 
that it was the thumb of my right hand. 



I will/ said he, laughing in turn. As you say, 
these are mere formalities. I do not think the less 
of you for your insistence upon their performance. 

With these words we parted in the greatest mutual 
satisfaction. He to dream of this fine new plantation 
and his coming wealth, but I to pour out my soul in 
prayer to my Maker and humbly to ask for further 

" Next morning while it was- yet dark I rose and 
mounted, the bailiff at my side, and the slaves taking 
the wagons behind. Early as was the hour my kind 
host was astir ; he gave me his blessing for the tenth 
time on my departure and poured out petitions for my 
safe return. I hung the pouch of gold to my saddle 
bow, where I securely fastened it ; I took the weapon 
with which he had kindly provided me in case of any 
misadventure by the road, and left him under the 
benediction of God. I thought a little sadly, as we 
rode out in silence through the gate and out on to 
the bare uplands again, how transitory were all human 
affections. How short had been this episode of friend 
ship and hospitality ! How brief even in the short 
course of one human life are these passages of complete 
confidence and brotherly kindness ! When should we 
meet again ? 

Of my journey there is little to be related. We 
plodded on, our pace necessarily determined by that 
of the slow wagon following us and my mind still 
turned upon what my future action should be ; for, 
to tell you the truth, my dear nephews, Allah had 
vouchsafed me no revelation, in spite of my earnest 
prayers during the night, and I was still considering 
what turn I should give to the affair when once more 
that Infinite Mercy which has never failed me (or, at 


any rate, only for some short few days and even so 
but to chastise my pride) came to my rescue. 

" There are, in this country, deep gullies called 
nullahs, the course of streams which run but rarely 
on these heights, but which, when they run, dig their 
channels deeply into the friable soil. The crossing 
of these gullies by any rolling vehicle is something of 
a business. As we reached one, therefore (they came 
at intervals of two or three miles) the bailiff and I 
were careful to dismount and help the slaves with the 

" It was while thus engaged during our careful drop 
into the second nullah that the inspiration from on high 
flashed into my brain. I perceived that the wheels 
of the waggon were fastened to the hub with wooden 
pins, one of which, at the off-hind wheel which I was 
holding back, looked a little loose. The slaves had 
their backs turned to me, holding back the front wheels, 
and checking the horses ; at the other hind wheel, 
with the body of the front wagon between us and 
concealing his view from mine, strained and heaved 
the bailiff, a fat, elderly rogue, unaccustomed to such 
work. I pulled out the pin, threw it into the depths 
of the neighbouring scrub, and as I did so continued 
to cry, Steady there ! Steady ! So ! Hold hard ! 
That s better ! Woa-oh ! Stand by ! and other words 
of the sort, which showed my interest in the operation. 
I could see the wheel wobbling as we crossed the flat 
bed of the nullah. At the foot of the far rise it was 
nearly off. The time had come. Now ! I cried 
suddenly, All together ! Whip up the horses and 
shove ! The whips cracked, the slaves hauled at 
the traces, the horses strained, up went the wagon, 
off came the wheel and the whole collapsed upon one 


side with a great din and with a sharp cracking, as 
though something had given way. 

And so it proved to be ; for the main axle, though 
not snapped, had split ; so there we were with the 
wagon out of service for the moment, the axle unsure, 
a hind wheel off, and the whole contraption on its side. 

" The bailiff was seriously disturbed. It seemed 
that my kind host was a firm master, that he had his 
moments of sharp temper ; and the bailiff bewailed 
his fate and considered what awaited him on his 
return. I laughed good-naturedly and reassured 

" Come, come/ said I, it is no great matter ! I 
understand these things. Do you ride on towards the 
town. I will help the slaves put back the wheel. We 
will make some sort of jury pin to put into the hub, 
we will tie a rope round the cracked axle, and all will 
be well. We are men enough between us to repair 
the wagon, but you, as I say, ride forward. I shall 
soon catch you up. 

" The bailiff was relieved at this proof of my effi 
ciency and good will, and delighted to be released from 
work to which he was quite unused. He rode on at a 
moderate pace while the slaves and I heaved the wagon 
back upright. I fashioned a jury pin out of a piece of 
the scrub and I was careful to make it too weak for its 
work. We bound a piece of rope round the axle and 
when all this was done I bade them go forward care 
fully lest a further accident should befall. I then rode 
on smartly to catch up the bailiff, who had by this 
time got about a mile ahead. As I neared him I 
looked back from an intervening rise of land. It was 
as I had anticipated. The jury pin had given way, 
and the wagon was on its side again : but the lift of 


land soon hid it from me and down on the further slope 
I caught up the bailiff, ambling along. The wagon 
is all right/ said I, but it will have to go rather 
slow/ He gave a great sigh of content. Thanks 
be ! said he. Truly you are a genius ! 

( Not at all ! said I modestly. It is quite a 
small accident and of a sort to which I am accustomed ; 
but do you ride back now that everything is well, for 
the slaves are uneducated men (this sort of flattery 
is honey to bailiffs), and will need some one of your 
standing to moderate their pace and to check their 
horses and to see that the wagon comes on in good 
condition. Go very carefully, for the axle is weak. 
When you shall reach the town we will get a proper 
pin and have everything put right in an hour or 
two, meanwhile I will go forward and we will make 
an appointment at the market gardener s, which you 
will reach, I think, some three-quarters of an hour after 
myself. For we are now, I take it, some couple of 
hours from the town. 

You are right, said the bailiff, you have but 
to follow the track and we will come after you. With 
that he turned back. Once I had seen him disappear 
behind the rise of the hill I dug my spurs sharply 
into my poor horse and went at top speed across the 

I am a poor rider and had not my saddle been 
ample and my stirrups weighty I should have fallen, 
but Providence was with me once again. I came 
through a gap of rocks and saw, immediately before 
and below me, the white domes and flat roofs of a large 
city, and just outside the gate a fine plantation of 
young fruit trees, which I recognized as the nursery 
gardener s. 


" I had ridden past his house and grounds, and ad 
mired the young pear trees especially (a fine collection) 
when a useful thought occurred to me, and I acted on 
it at once, eager though I was to save time. I turned 
back and said to the slave at the gate of the plantation, 
I have a message for your master. Tell him that 
if any one asks for Daoud-ben-Jacoub, he has bidden 
me say that he went back by a short cut to help his 
companions with a broken wagon/ I then turned 
again and rode off towards the city walls. 

" I approached the town and rode through the gate 
with dignity in the new fine clothes the young lord 
had given me. I nodded in a superior manner to the 
guard and made straight for the opposite entrance to 
the city. A horse fair was proceeding. I put up mine 
at an inn, took off the bag of gold (which was heavy, 
but not too heavy to be carried) walked towards the 
market and asked where I could best purchase a horse. 
The name of a horse-seller was given me. I approached 
him, failed to believe all that he told me with regard 
to the beast he offered, but said it would be enough for 
my purpose. I had not an idea whither to fly, yet fly 
I must, for sooner or later the bailiff or my late 
master himself must follow. I knew nothing of the 
country nor of the names of its towns nor of the 
roads. I took refuge in a piece of diplomacy. As I 
paid for the horse, I said to the seller, that I had to 
reach my mother s house in the next city before 
sundown, and that I hoped my purchase was able to 
carry me that far in the remaining half-day. 

" Half a day s riding ? answered the merchant in 
astonishment. I know not how you ride ! If you 
mean the town of Taftah it is not more than three 
hours going for any reasonable mount. 


" Is that so ? said I in surprise. I am a stranger 
and I can only believe what I was told. But you 
know how vague these country people are. I was 
assured that this was the road to Taftah/ and here 
I pointed through the eastern gate. 

" Yes ! That is the road/ he said. You can 
easily reach your mother s house before evening upon 
this beast/ he said, clapping its crupper. Without 
doubt you will be there long before the prayer : and 
God be with you, Hassan ! For, incidentally, it was 
as Hassan that I had done business with him. 

" I paid him ten pieces of gold for the beast. (It 
was more than it was worth.) I humbly repeated his 
prayer which I felt did apply with peculiar force to 
me now, for I was conscious that I was once more 
under the beneficent guidance of Heaven who could 
not be with that heavy pouch now hanging again on 
his saddle ? I rode out therefore confidently, quite 
careless whether I killed the beast or no in my rapid 
progress and brought it into Taftah well within three 
hours in such a state that I was delighted to find a 
purchaser (to whom I gave my name as Abdurram, and 
my profession as that of a leather dresser), who offered 
but five pieces of gold : I was glad to be rid of the 
horse and him at that. 

" Time still pressed. I might be traced. I knew 
not what accidents had occurred upon the road behind 
me, whether indeed those poor fools had managed to 
mend the wagon again, if not, whether the bailiff would 
have the courage to tell his master or ride on to find 
me in the first town. If he had so ridden on he might 
find evidences of my departure, and even (more doubt 
fully) of my second horse and its purchase. 

" But though time pressed it would have been fatal 


to show any too great speed. I therefore sauntered 
very gradually in my fine clothes, afoot, bearing my 
pouch in my hand concealed under the fold of my gar 
ment, until I reached a gathering of merchants outside 
a sort of Exchange which this town of Taftah boasted, 
like others of the neighbourhood, in the vicinity of 
the governor s palace. 

( It was there that, during a conversation which, 
for all my anxiety, I took care to make slow and 
dignified, I learned how dates were in great demand 
in a large city called Laknes, about two weeks journey 
beyond the hills. It was, to a business man like 
myself, a most fascinating story that I heard ! The 
people of that far country were passionately fond of 
dates and gave that fruit the briskest market imagin 
able. Their appetite had grown all the more formid 
able since the next people immediately beyond them 
had passed a law prohibiting the culture and sale of 
all dates on account of the toothache sometimes arising 
from that fruit. With this reduction of supply Laknes 
became more of a bidder for dates than ever. Great 
rewards were offered to any taking the fruit to such 
a market. The last advices, not a month old, quoted 
thirty dinars the kantar and were rising. The mer 
chants designed to despatch a caravan the day after 
the morrow. 

With equal leisure and dignity I left them after 
this little talk and made it my immediate business in 
the next half-hour to procure with the capital at my 
disposal a number of camels and a couple of bales of 
dates for each, together with a few slaves that should 
conduct the caravan to its destination ; I also hired 
a free man for a leader, as he was acquainted with the 


" By this time it was nearly dark. I had given 
orders (in order to conceal my movements) that I 
should not start till late in the week, but I had also 
given a child a small coin to come up to me, upon a 
signal, with a piece of paper folded, upon which indeed 
nothing was written. Just as the camels were being 
driven off to their litter, I signalled to the child, who 
ran up and gave me the note. I opened it before the 
head man, put on an air of great perturbation, and 
said, This message changes all my plans ! I fear I 
disturb you, but will you start out to-night ? 

Willingly/ said he. We have provisions, and 
I know a good place on the road where we can purchase 
more to-morrow. The weather is warm and if your 
business demands haste, it may be better to march 
during the cool. The slaves (who were not consulted) 
were no doubt agreeable enough. We set out and all 
that night went our way. 

It was a monotonous journey through an arid 
land, with few towns or villages, sufficient watering, 
but no more. Though I pressed the pace we lost no 
beasts, and on the twelfth day, with the cool of the 
evening, we reached Laknes. 

My camels were parked, I took my place in the 
chief inn of the city (under the name of Ishmail-of- 
Taftah, merchant), and my first act before ordering a 
meal was, again, from the very bottom of my heart, 
to thank Allah for the return of his mercies. My 
capital was, indeed, nearly exhausted. I had but a 
few pieces of gold left in my garment, and the pouch 
was empty ; but there was my solid row of camels and 
my fine cargo of dates. I made no doubt I should sell 
at a good profit next day and that my career was 
once more launched. I took care to speak to all 


openly of my arrival, to hint at my wealth, to make 
all familiar with the name of Ishmail-of-Taftah, a 
merchant in dates which it was proposed to offer 
next day in the market. For there are occasions, 
my dear nephews, in commerce when it is perfectly 
advisable to tell the truth and even to spread it 

With these unexpected words the merchant Mahmoud 
suddenly ceased his tale, for the shriek of the muezzin 
was heard rending the air. The nephews rose and 
bowed. We trust," said the eldest, " that when we 
next appear we shall find you, my dear uncle, climbing 
from greatness to greatness in the story you still have 
to unfold." 

Alas, my children," answered the venerable sage, 
I fear you must hear of other disappointments before 
the goal is reached ! 

At this the youngest boy put forth his lower lip, 
which trembled, and began screwing up his eyes. 

Stop ! said the merchant testily. " Stop ! My 
little fellow ! I have had enough of this ! " 

Oh, Uncle," sobbed the boy, " I cannot bear to 
think that perhaps all that new wealth will be stolen 
from you." 

Stop, I say ! shouted Mahmoud angrily, and 
half-rising, I tell you I have had enough of it ! I 
appreciate your motive. I admire your judgment. 
It is marvellous in so young a child. But I cannot be 
disturbed with useless tears at things so long past. 
You show too great a sympathy. You are too sensi 
tive, my dear." 

The child saluted, assumed a more equable appear 
ance, and followed his brothers out of the room, 
while Mahmoud, his equipoise a little disturbed by 


the incident, set himself right by the simple process 
of drawing from one sleeve a handful of coins and 
counting them out slowly into the other : a pas 
time which never failed to restore him to the best 
of tempers. 



That is : 






WHEN the hour of public execution had arrived 
the boys came timorously into their rich 
uncle s presence, and seating themselves upon the 
expensive carpet at the feet of his divan, prepared 
to hear the continuation of his adventures. 
That excellent old man began as follows : 

I warn you, my children, that the path to wealth, 
which (by the Mercy of Allah) I have been allowed to 
tread, is varied and difficult. Profit by my misad 
ventures ! Remain determined to enrich yourselves, 
even after the worst mishaps ! Yea ! After wealth 
and poverty (like mine) renewed wealth and (alas !) 
renewed poverty never despair. Still hold to gold 
and still determine your fate. Still thirst for money. 
But all the while most reverently worship Him the 
Supreme, the All-compelling, the Giver of Great 
bags of coin. No talent in the deception of individuals 
or the gulling of the crowd can of itself bring the great 
reward. The acquirement of those immense sums 
which are the chief glory of man, is, like all else, in 
the Hand of God. 

My brother, your worthy though impecunious 
father, has sufficiently grounded you in the essentials 
of our holy religion. You will not repine if you turn 
out to be one of the ninety-nine who end their lives 



in the gutter, rather than the blessed hundredth who 
attains, as I have attained, to the possession of a 
palace and of innumerable slaves. ..." 

Having so spoken the aged merchant bent for a 
moment in silent prayer and then proceeded : 

You will remember that at the conclusion of my 
last adventure I had reached a position, not of afflu 
ence, but at least of tolerable fortune. I was possessed 
of a train of camels, each heavily laden with two large 
panniers of dates, and drivers to conduct the whole. 

" You will further remember how, on my arrival in 
Laknes, as I was anxious to make the best of my time 
I spoke freely to all of my merchandise, extolled its 
character, described how I intended to put it up for 
sale next day in the public markets, and spread abroad 
the name of Ismail-of-Taftah which happened for the 
moment to be mine. 

The rumour spread (as I had intended it should). 
I strolled through the narrow streets of the town after 
sunset, and was glad to hear my arrival discussed, and 
my wares. I had promise for the morrow. I returned 
to my men. 

" I had already spread out my bed upon the corner 
of the yard, when there came up a slave magnificently 
dressed, who bowed to the ground, and approaching 
my presence asked whether he had the honour and 
felicity to address the renowned merchant Ismail. 
He bore an invitation from the greatest merchant in 
the city, whose name I had already heard half a dozen 
times in Taftah, and whom all the merchants there 
revered from afar for his enormous riches : a certain 
Yusouff ben Ahmed, also called El-Zafari/ or the 

Late as was the hour I purchased finery ; with my 


last gold I hired a donkey of strange magnificence, 
and arrived at the palace of Yusouff, dressed in a 
fashion which I could ill afford, but which I regarded 
as an investment. 

I had expected to find within this palace that 
admirable simplicity of manner which is inseparable 
from really great wealth : Nor was I disappointed. 
The inner room to which I was led, encrusted every 
where with black marble, boasted no ornament 
save three white alabaster jars as tall as a man and 
of immense antiquity. They had formerly been the 
property of a young noble whom Yusouff had ruined, 
and he had them of the Sultan. In the midst shone 
the single pure flame of a massive silver lamp, 
rifled from the tomb of a saint. It now hung dependent 
from a chain of the same metal, the height of which 
was lost in the gloom of the lofty cupola. 

A fountain of scented water I could not name 
its odour precisely, but I guessed it to be Fior 
de Goyim plashed gently into a basin of porphyry 
at the end of the apartment. 

Yusouff and two other guests (who alone had been 
asked to meet me), rose from the exceedingly costly 
rugs of Persia whereon they had reclined, and gravely 
saluted me. The master of the house, after the 
first salutations and an invocation upon my head of 
the Mercy of Allah, told me that the feast was ready 
prepared, but that before summoning it he would 
ask me to honour the house and survey what poor 
ornaments he might be able to show me. 

I was expressly delighted at his tone. It was 
that which I had always heard to be native to princes of 
commerce. He had already acquired, in the few years 
that had elapsed since he had cleaned the streets for 


a living, a well-bred restraint of gesture, and when he 
spoke it was in the tone of one who thought negligible 
the whole world, including his guest. I prayed fer 
vently, as I accompanied the leisurely steps of my great 
entertainer, that when I should have achieved a 
similar fortune I should myself as quickly acquire 
this distinctive manner of the great. I watched 
him narrowly in order to imitate (when I should have 
left his presence) those peculiar little details which 
mark affluence and are of such service in negotiation. 
He would often interpose words of his own into the 
midst of another s sentence. It pleased him not to 
answer some repeated question. He would change 
the conversation at hisjpleasure without too much 
regard for what I might have been saying immedi 
ately before. He also turned to another guest while 
I was addressing him and in every way showed his 
superiority . 

" When we had sat down to meat I was further 
edified by the varied information, the extensive 
culture of my host. He would lead the talk on to 
some subject which he had recently acquired from his 
numerous secretaries, and dally upon it at a length 
which would have been tedious in one of lesser station. 
But all this was done with such an air of money that it 
was impossible to feel the slightest tedium, though his 
minute description of things which we all knew by 
heart extended more than once to a full quarter of 
an hour. 

" During the progress of this divine repast I noted 
with pleasure that the distinguished master of the 
house never once introduced the subject of my affairs. 

" I would have you remember, my dear nephews," 
said Mahmoud at this point, " that nothing is less 


pleasing in a merchant, especially in one of approved 
success, than the introduction of profit and loss at 
a meal; for profit and loss are of such profound import 
ance that their mere mention must distract from 
the legitimate pleasures of the table. 

It was not until a late hour, when the two other 
guests (whose insignificant names I have not attempted 
to retain) had arisen to depart, that affairs began. 

" With the subtle tact of commercial genius my host 
retained me, gripping my arm. I ventured in the 
absence of any witness to say a few words upon what 
was nearest my heart : I asked him How were dates ? 

" To my delight he proved affable. He unbent in 
a degree unworthy of so small an occasion and listened 
with the greatest attention to my simple tale. I 
told him frankly that I had with me at the moment 
but few camels (I was under no necessity to confess 
that I had not another asset in the world). I sug 
gested by my negligent tone that such a number could 
hardly be called a caravan and was little more than a 
distraction with which I amused myself on my travels. 
I then dropped the fact that I had loaded them 
more as a pastime than anything else with a few 

At this second mention of the word dates the 
face of Yusouff-the-Blessed suddenly changed. He 
at first cast his eyes down in an expression of real 
concern. Then, looking up at me anxiously and 
steadily, he said : 

This is no affair of mine. . . . You may resent 
my interference/ 

I assured him that I desired nothing more than 
a hint from one so favoured of Heaven. How I had 
better dispose of my trifling merchandise ? I was 


more anxious to hear his reply than it is possible to 

" He sighed heavily, shook his head, and answered 
with a certain familiarity that I could not resent : 

" My poor friend . . . ! 

" He then sighed again and added : 

I really do not see how I can advise you. . . . 
The truth is that dates will from henceforth be almost 
unsaleable here. There has lately taken place indeed 
it was but last week an extraordinary thing. The 
mother of our Emir the dowager has left by will 
the whole of her immense date groves in trust to the 
nation with orders that regular weekly distribution 
shall be made free to all the citizens. We are bidden 
praise her generosity and the masses are of course 
delighted. But it is ruin for the poor merchants 
whose stocks of dates are now so much dross. They 
cannot sell to our neighbours in the country over the 
border, for these hold dates to be evil from their effect 
in giving the toothache. Their new law, called the Date 
Prohibition Act, is of the most rigorous kind. I have 
myself (from a sense of public duty) bought up the 
greater portion at a ruinous loss to prevent the failure 
of smaller men and to avoid a panic. I have sacrificed 
myself to the public good. He sighed heavily once 
more and was silent. 

" You may imagine, my dear nephews, the effect of 
this news upon your unfortunate uncle ! The panniers 
of dates (two for each camel) were, save the animals 
themselves, all that I had in the world. I had tra 
versed the waste at the cost of much labour, infinite 
privation, and mortal perils, precisely because this 
district had the reputation of being by far the best 
market for dates, and here was I, with an enemy 


left behind me, alone in the world, and my sole venture 
mined. ... I remembered my dreadful poverty, 
only so recently past, and I shuddered as I considered 
those unsaleable dates and my black future ! Before 
me was a country where dates were rigorously for 
bidden by law ; behind me a hue and cry. Despair 
was in my heart ! 

" Though I trust I have a sufficient degree of the 
arts essential to our profession, Yusouff must have 
guessed my thoughts. Ignoring my former statement 
that the goods I had with me were but a toy, and that 
I was indifferent to their fate, he expressed the deepest 
sympathy with my plight and begged me to bear 
with him while he reflected within himself how he 
might be of service. 

( Having said this he covered his face with his right 
hand, bowed his head, leant his elbow upon his knee, 
and for some moments was plunged in what merchants 
use as thought. When he raised his face I was shocked 
to see how haggard it had become, and I marvelled 
that one so circumstanced should care so much for 
the chance misfortunes of a stranger. But I had 
read that these Princes of Commerce were often of 
tenderest heart and that one should never be surprised 
at any freak of generosity on their part. 

Judge therefore of my delight on hearing Yusouff 
say in a determined voice that he had concluded upon 
the only issue and that he would purchase my dates 
himself ! 

I cannot (he frankly added) give you as good 
a price even as I could have given a day or two ago ; 
the old Queen s idea of free dates has swamped 
everything. But I will pay a good quarter of the 
customary price which is far more than you now 


could obtain elsewhere. I am very wealthy. You 
are a stranger and, as it were, our guest in this town. 
A good deed is never thrown away. Perhaps some 
day I shall be glad of your aid also. I have seen you a 
few hours only, but I think we know each other s 
hearts already. Moreover, I do not conceal it from you, 
I may save much of the loss. I have special corre 
spondents in distant towns, and opportunities of sale 
which others do not possess. . . . Come ! I ll do it ! 
I will offer you this price of one- third. It is but a 
poor price, said he, sighing yet again most heavily, 
but it is far, far better than no price at all. 

My relief was beyond words. I had seen myself 
leaving my merchandise unsold or sacrificing it at a 
ruinous nothing. That which Yusouff offered me 
was the difference between despair and a shred of 
hope, and though the loss was severe it left me at 
least with some capital for a further venture. 

Great men have a sort of simplicity in their 
dealings. Hardly had Yusouff discovered my grati 
tude and my immediate acceptance of his gift (for 
I could call it by no other name), than the princely 
fellow clapped his hands, sent for his treasurer, and 
had counted to me upon the spot a hundred pieces of 
gold. I gave him my writing of delivery, which he 
handed to another slave with a few words in a low voice. 
Then he continued to talk to me, for he was determined 
to detain me far into the night. Indeed it was near 
dawn before he whom I will now call my friend, and 
to whom I felt bound for life by the greatest ties of 
grateful affection, allowed me to pass his gates and 
to return to my hostelry. 

" There I found that my panniers had already been 
removed and their contents conveyed to the purchaser s 


warehouse. I admired the promptitude in business 

which so often accompanies a generous heart. 
* * * * * 

" With the early hours of the next day, before the 
sun had yet acquired too great power, I strolled through 
the bazaar, not so much cast down at the thought of 
my loss as cheered by the recollection that I possessed, 
after all, one hundred good pieces of solid gold. 

" With a malicious pleasure I approached the stall 
of a fruit-seller. Putting down a small copper coin 
I begged him for a handful of dates. 

1 I need not full measure, said I, only a handful 
to munch as I go along. For I knew that in the state 
of the market my penny might have purchased a 
gallon. I desired to show a neglect for small sums. 

To my surprise the fruit-seller stared at me and 
said : 

Dates ? From what country do you come that 
you ask for dates in our town ? 

11 Why ! said I, is there not a glut of these ? I 
am told the place is overflowing with them. 

There is One-who-judges, said the fruit-seller 
resignedly. But as for dates you will not find 
one in the whole town ; our last month s arrival was 
pillaged by robbers in the hills. If you will but pro 
cure me a single gallon I will readily give in return two 
pieces of gold, so great is the demand. Of supply there 
is none whatever, nor, alas ! any prospect of such. 

( I was so bewildered that I hardly know what next 
I said, but at any rate, in reply to it, my new acquaint 
ance told me that there were, indeed, suspected to be 
certain dates in the possession of Yusouff-t he-Trium 
phant, who (he remarked aside) has all the luck. 
He next said it was also rumoured that Yusouffs slaves 


had been seen in the last hours of the night going in 
procession with a great number of panniers laden on 
mules towards Yusouffs warehouse, and those who 
brought the news swore that they could smell the 
smell of dates. 

" But beyond that smell/ he ended, we have 
had nothing of dates in the place for three weeks. And 
if you understood our habit in the matter of food you 
would feel for us ! 

" I have already described to you, my dear nephews, 
my admiration for Yusouff-the-Triumphant. Long be 
fore I had seen him his distant reputation had inflamed 
me. My brief acquaintance with him had exalted that 
feeling to what I had thought the highest pitch. But 
now it passed all bounds. A man so subtle in negotia 
tion ! So ready in affairs ! So rapid and conclusive 
in a bargain ! With so marvellous a command of 
feature and of tone ! A man (in a word) so infinitely 
my superior in that profession of commerce to which 
Allah calls all great souls and in which I also was 
engaged ! Such a man I had never thought to meet ! 
Nay I had never thought such a one to exist upon 
this poor earth. I could have kissed the ground upon 
which he walked or have borne upon me for ever, 
as a relic, some thread of his purse. 

" Here/ I exclaimed, is the true merchant ! 
Here is the model of all that a man of affairs should 
be ! Oh ! Mahmoud, you thought yourself something 
in your trade, but you have met your master, and more 
than your master ! You have met one who is to you 
as the most holy of saintly men is to the basest of the 
Kafir. There is none on earth like him. Allah has 
raised him beyond all others. 

" But it is not enough, my dear nephews/ continued 


the old man, whose eyes were now filled with a sort of 
sacred light, " it is not enough to admire those who set 
us great examples. We should also imitate them. 
I determined after so rare an experience to follow as 
best I might in the footsteps of one who had shown 
himself raised high above the level of mortality. 

" Him/ said I to myself, him will I copy ! He 
shall be my guide ! His manner and his tone, on that 
unforgettable evening, shall be my exact model ! 
Then perhaps in time I shall do as he has done and 
accumulate so great a store of money as shall put me 
among the greatest of mankind. 

I hastened to summon my slaves. I paid my 
score for the stabling, and as I looked at my small 
capital and surveyed my beasts I hesitated what I 
should do. Yusouff-the-Triumphant had, by God s 
special grace overshadowing him, got hold of my sub 
stance. Nothing was left me but the camels. In 
such a strait I abandoned the thought of men and 
turned at once to heaven. I lifted up my heart to my 
Maker and prayed for guidance. He that has never 
for very long abandoned His servant answered my 
prayer with singular alacrity, for even as I prayed I 
heard two men who passed me muttering one to the 

The first, as they hurried along, was saying in 
fearful undertones : 

They have not yet a camel among them ! Yet 
camels they must have or the terrible sentence will 
be pronounced ! 

Yes ! returned his companion in a horrified 
whisper, I fear greatly for my relatives in that town, 
and I am proceeding there to make certain that they 
shall have at least one camel in so terrible a time ! 


For if a sufficiency of camels is not there by to-morrow 
noon I hear they are all to be impaled ! 

So speaking in subdued accents of terror, little 
knowing they were overheard, they walked on while 
I followed and noted every word. 

My mind was immediately made up. I continued, 
with stealthy feet, to follow these two anxious beings 
who were so engrossed in the coming misfortunes of 
their native place. At last, when we had come to an 
empty space where three streets met, I caught them 
up and faced them. Accosting them I said : 

Sirs, are you bound for such and such a place ? 
(naming a town of which they could never have heard 
-for indeed it did not exist). 

They stopped and looked at me in surprise. 

No, sir/ they answered me together, we are 
bound in all haste for our native place which is 
threatened with a great calamity. Its name is Mawur, 
but, alas, it is far distant from us a matter of some 
twenty leagues the desert lies between, and we shall 
hardly reach it within the day that remains. For we 
are poor men, and only with fast camels (at this 
word they glanced at each other and shuddered) 
could the journey be accomplished in the time. 

I thanked them politely, regretted that I had 
disturbed them for so little, proceeded with the utmost 
haste to my caravan, inquired the road for Mawur 
(the track for which lay plain through the scrub and 
across the sand), and hastened with the utmost 
dispatch all that burning day and all the succeeding 
night without repose, until at dawn I passed with my 
exhausted train through the gates of the city. I had 
covered in twenty hours twice as many leagues. 
" Five of my beasts I left upon the road ; and some 


few of my slaves how many I had not yet counted 
-had fallen out and would presumably die in the 
desert. But there was a good remainder. 

" Unfortunately I was not alone in my venture, 
for I discovered that early as was the hour another 
man had arrived already with two camels and was 
standing with them under the dawn in the market 
place. Poor beasts they were, and bearing every mark 
of fatigue. But I was determined upon a monopoly. 
I had hoped from the conversation I had overheard 
that not a single camel would be present in the place. 
I would secure myself against even the slightest com 
petition. I approached the leader of the two sorry 
camels and asked him there and then what he would 
take for his cattle. He stared at me for a moment, 
but to my astonishment when I offered him for a 
beginning the derisory price of ten pieces of gold, he 
accepted at once, put the coins into his pouch, smiled 
evilly, and moved off at a great pace. 

" To my chagrin there approached within a very 
few moments yet another peasant, leading this time 
but one camel, a rather finer beast than the others. 
I hoped, I believed, he would be the last. I made 
haste to follow the same tactics with him as with the 
first. Like the first he took the five gold pieces without 
so much as bargaining, but he looked me up and down 
strangely before shrugging his shoulders and taking 
himself off hastily down a side lane. 

And then (the people beginning to drift into the 
street as the day rose) appeared a man leading not 
less than ten camels in a file. I was seriously alarmed, 
but I bethought me of my reading : how all great 
fortunes had been acquired by speculation, how caution 
and other petty virtues were the bane of true trade. 


I boldly approached him and offered him my remaining 
gold for the whole bunch. Instead of meeting my 
offer with a higher claim, he asked to look narrowly 
at the pieces, and then looked as narrowly into my 
face. He took one of the gold pieces and bit it. 
He stooped and rang it upon the cobble-stones. He 
determined apparently that it was good, and without 
another word took my gold, appealed to those around 
us as witnesses to the transaction, handed me th,e 
leading cord, and with a burst of laughter ran off at 
top speed. 

Here, then, was I with my thirteen new camels 
and what was left of my original caravan. I will -not , 
deny that I was somewhat disturbed in mind ; but 
I could only trust in Allah. I did so with the utmost 
fervour, and implored Him to consider His servant, 
and to see to it that not another camel should reach 
the town before I began to sell. 

" But what is man ? What is he that he should 
order the movements of the Most High ? 

1 I lifted up my eyes and saw approaching down the 
narrowness of the street a file of certainly not less than 
one hundred camels led by a great company of ragged 
men and walking with that insolent and foolish air 
which this beast affects and which at such a moment 
provoked me to rage. 

" Then a slave, trembling lest he should give me 
offence, bade me come apart with him where steps 
led up the city wall. These I climbed, and from the 
summit I saw a sight that broke my heart. 

" For there, across the plain that surrounded the 
city, came such a mass of camels as I hardly thought 
the universe contained. They came in batches of 
twenty, fifty, two hundred, herds and flocks of camels, 


driven, led, ridden, conducted in every shape from one 
direction and another, through the desert and culti 
vated land, from track and path, a very foison and 
cataract of camels. It was as though all the camels 
of Arabia, India, Bactria, and Syria had been sum 
moned to this one place. 

" And, alas, so they had ! or at least as many as 
the King of that region could command. . . . 

" For this was the explanation. ..." 

Here the old man s eyes grew dim with tears, 
his voice faltered, and in spite of his present riches 
he broke down at the recollection of his past ill-fortune. 

" Oh, my dear nephews," he said in broken accents, 
" hardly will you believe the magnitude of my mis 
fortune ! For it turned out, as I eagerly questioned 
the people of the place, that a war having broken out 
against their King on account of the Date Prohibition 
of which I have told you, that ruthless monarch had 
ordered them to collect as best they might so many 
thousands of camels to be present within the walls by 
noon of that day, or suffer massacre. If the full tale 
were not present every man, woman, and child would 
be killed. For he had been suddenly alarmed by this 
declaration of war and caught with an insufficient 
provision of sumpter beasts. His Emirs had advised 
him that his salvation lay in seizing without payment 
every beast for leagues around. 

In proportion as my soul sank so did the hearts 
of the townsmen rise, to see the number gradually 
fulfilled. By noon all was well for them but very 
ill for me ! The officers of the king arrived, the beasts 
were counted and set apart, with not an ounce of 
copper to pay for any one of them ! All seized ! 
And my poor herd, alone and in that vast multitude, 



suffered the fate of all the rest, and, what was worse, 
every one of my slaves all were taken off to serve as 

" There in a far land, alone, I stood, with not a 
gold piece left in my pouch and not a head of cattle 
to my name ; once more quite destitute. 

" I spent the remainder of that day debating 
whether to hang myself on a beam or throw myself 
from a minaret. The arguments in favour of either 
course were so evenly balanced that the sun set 
before I could decide between them, and even at sunset 
there appeared, through the Mercy of Allah, a new 

" There did ? said the second of the nephews 
eagerly, but before his uncle could reply the intolerable 
noise of the Muezzin was heard and the boys, rising 
at the signal, bowed low to their uncle and were gone. 


That is : 




WHEN the nephews of Mahmoud once again 
attended their uncle at the hour of public 
executions he gazed at them in his benevolent fashion, 
again stroking his long beard, the better to expose the 
jewels upon his fingers, and continued the tale of his 

" You left me, my dear children, at the end of my 
last recital in a very deplorable condition. You will 
remember that through the superior business ability 
of a merchant renowned for his organizing power, 
grasp of detail, sense of affairs, etc., etc., etc., I had 
been reduced in property to a few camels and their 
attendants, and that even this poor remainder of my 
fortune I had lost through a miscalculation of the camel 
market on the eve of war. 

" Your filial affection will also recall the bitter 
mood in which I hesitated whether to precipitate 
myself from a minaret or to hang myself from a 

Advantages and disadvantages appeared equally 
balanced between these two courses ; and though my 
long training in commerce had led me to make rapid 
decisions (as being the most certain way of forestalling 
competitors) , yet I confess that in this debate I stood 
uncertain for nearly half an hour. 

It was well I did so ; for in that half-hour was 

209 p 


manifested in a triumphant manner the Mercy of 
Allah to them that fear Him. 

As I stood there, among strangers, without one 
single coin left in the world and utterly devoid of 
credit, with no knowledge even of how I should get 
food upon the following day, I heard cries and a 
confusion of horses hoofs, and saw galloping down the 
street towards me a very finely-bred grey horse, with 
flowing mane and a loose bridle. It bore a noble 
saddle of Indian workmanship, but no rider ; while, 
some hundred yards behind, impotently ran and gesti 
culated a corpulent man who, from his dress, seemed of 
some wealth and consequence. My first instinct 
was to catch the runaway like any beggar and restore 
him to his master in hope of some small reward ; 
a few pence that might buy me food that evening and 
lodging for one night. 

1 But the beneficent Creator soon put other thoughts 
into the mind of his servant. I had caught the 
horse indeed. Its panting owner had slackened his 
pace and was coming towards me in a more dignified 
manner when it struck me that the animal (which 
was restive) could be better controlled were I in the 

I am, my dear nephews, as I have told you three 
times, no horseman. My more habitual steed is the 
donkey and though I have, since my attainment to 
high rank, taken part in ceremonial processions, 
and even in the hunting to which His Majesty so kindly 
invites me, yet I must confess to you that whenever 
I have to ride now I take care to be provided with an 
animal not only trained in the most exact manner, 
but also previously soothed with drugs. 

" I had, however, taken to the saddle when necessity 


drove me, as you have seen. And on this occasion, 
although the beast was infinitely more mettlesome 
than any I had yet dared to face, I took the risk. 
Courage was granted to me from on High. I scram 
bled into the saddle, but found that my control of the 
creature was no better than it had been when I stood 
at his head. 

1 I cannot swear that, in the bewilderment of the 
moment, I kept a sufficiently tight rein. I will not 
even swear that the value of the opportunity was lost 
on me. I certainly remember delivering several 
violent kicks with either heel into the ribs of the un 
quiet brute. There followed a few minutes in which 
(under my direction, I must admit) he seemed to be 
galloping farther and farther away from his original 
master, and at full speed down the main street of the 
town. I heard cries arising behind me on every side, 
and upon attempting to look round (a difficult feat 
for one so unused to the saddle) I was aware of a now 
considerable mob, in the midst of which I saw the 
distant figure of the horse s wealthy owner frantically 
exclaiming and gesticulating. 

Nothing, my dear nephews, is more foolish than 
to treat generously, or even rationally, an excited 
crowd of human beings. All historians and philoso 
phers will tell you that man in this state is but a wild 
beast, to be fled or mastered according to our abilities. 

As I had not ability to master them, then it was 
clearly my duty to flee them. Moreover, even as I 
urged the horse to further efforts, I confusedly appre 
ciated what difficulty I should have in explaining my 
position, were I to attempt to return. We thundered 
through the open gate into the country outside, and 
by that time I had no course but frankly to take the 


track across the plain and shake off my pursuers for 

Admire, my dear nephews, the steps by which 
Providence, when It desires to succour one of Its 
favourites, will lead him through one consequence 
after another until at last he stands secure in the 
possession of some considerable sum of money ! 
Here was I, not ten minutes before, contemplating 
death as the only issue from my poverty, and now 
mounted on a fine steed, seated in a saddle of price, 
and free to try any new adventure. 

I kept my handsome mount at the gallop until 
the gates were far behind me and all echo of the con 
fused cries of my pursuers was lost. I checked him 
to a sharp trot until we had passed the first low rise 
of rolling land which hid my movements from the city. 
I then judged it reasonable to proceed at a pace less 
trying to the poor animal who had so befriended me. 
I noted from his freshness that he could but recently 
have left the stable. I did not hesitate, though with 
intervals of repose, to continue all day long to put a 
greater and greater distance between myself and that 
unfortunate misunderstanding which I had left behind 

By evening my many hours acquaintanceship 
with my horse had increased my pride in his possession, 
and I turned my mind away from all morbid considera 
tions of his former owner. My only anxiety was for 
the night. Judge therefore of my satisfaction when, 
a full hour before the setting of the sun, I found myself, 
on emerging from a considerable wood, facing the walls 
of a new city, the gates of which stood about a league 
away from the spot whence I had first caught sight 
of it. 


" I lingered in this pleasant pasture at the edge of 
the wood, loosening my horse s girths, unbridling his 
bit, and letting him graze at large on the delicious 

" I reclined myself, for repose, upon that same grass, 
and mused upon the distant prospect of domes and 
minarets under the mellow light, my thoughts naturally 
turning to conjecture what sums I might acquire in 
cash from the citizens within those walls during my 
enjoyment of their hospitality. 

" The sun was barely set when I rode into the 
town ; noting on the walls the usual proclamation 
against the eating of dates and receiving, as was due 
to one riding so well-accoutred and so fine a horse, 
the respectful looks of the passers-by, and the humble 
but prolonged gaze of the guard at the gate. As 
I noted their attitude I could not but thank heaven 
for one more mercy which was now revealed to me. 
Had I happened to find this horse after some days of 
misfortune my own outward appearance would have 
ill consorted with his. How manifest was the dispensa 
tion of Providence whereby I came upon him within 
an hour after losing my other property, and, therefore 
while I was still in my decent merchant s dress, cleanly, 
well-shaven, and groomed ! 

There was in the central square of this town a 
runnel specially disposed for watering beasts of burden, 
and my horse (we had forded but one stream in all 
that day s journey) eagerly approached it. I fondly 
patted his neck and thought with pleasure of how 
noble a friend I had acquired ; for as you must have 
read, there is a sort of affinity between man and the 
horse which readily makes them intimate after even 
a short acquaintance : especially if the man be of a 


business turn of mind and the horse of considerable 

" From this mood into which I had fallen while my 
handsome mount was taking his simple refreshment, 
you may guess the perturbation caused me when I 
heard at my side an eager voice deliberately pitched 
in a low key so that it might be heard by none but 
myself. That voice was full of passionate necessity, 
and was asking me whether it would be possible 
now here at once, for me to dispose of my mount 
to a man whose life depended on it. 

" I turned and made out in the dusk under the 
shadow of his cowl (part of which he had pulled 
over his features to make a sort of veil) a young man 
whose agitation made me yearn instinctively to take 
some advantage of him. 

" Sir, he whispered hurriedly, my request is 
not only impertinent but extraordinary. I know that 
you will not understand it. I can only implore Heaven 
for a miracle. My time is very short. I know not 
how far my pursuers may be. My life is dear to me 
and still dearer is my honour. The night is falling. 
Here is my opportunity, which, if I do not take, all 
is over with me. 

" He thereupon passed up to me a leather bag upon 
opening which I could see in the fading light a quantity 
of gold pieces, and he accompanied the gesture with so 
imploring a look as explained the vastness of his offer. 

" Had I passed through any series of adventures 
less astonishing than those of the last day and night, I 
would not have listened for a moment to a first proposal. 
I would have attempted, as was indeed my duty, to 
raise his price, to obtain immediately some of his 
apparel as well as his purse ; and if possible a written 


promise of further payment as well. For he was 
distraught with fear and men in that condition are 
easily squeezed. But the rate at which I had been 
living, the perpetual succession, first of unfortunate 
and then of fortunate accidents, showed the manifest 
finger of God in all that had so far favoured me since 
the morning, and strangely convinced me. Without 
another word I took the bag of gold and dismounted. 
" The young man, with a new expression such as I 
had never yet seen upon anyone s face, said not a 
word, no, not even of gratitude to his benefactor ; 
turned the horse s head down the main street of the 
town, wisely refraining from too rapid an exit lest his 
passage should be remembered, and went at no more 
than a sharp trot through the gate into the falling dark 
ness without. The last I saw of him he appeared, a 
dark figure rapidly dwindling against the darkening 
sky, framed in the tiled horseshoe of the Bab-El-Soued. 
. . . But even as I gazed a troop of mounted horse 
men thundered past me and passed through that same 
gate into the night. 

" For my part I thought no more of him, but turned 
back to the centre of the town. There I was, with 
three times the price of my horse in my pocket, and 
thus with solid ground on which to stand for the 

My first care was to make an excellent meal, my 
next to discover a good lodging for the night. In 
both I was fortunate. But before reciting my last 
evening prayers I took the precaution of informing a 
passing patrol that I had had a horse stolen from me ; 
for, in business, no opportunity should be neglected. 
I then recommended myself to the Divine protection 
and fell into a sweet repose. 


1 Next morning, after I had humbly and devoutly 
recited my early prayers, I thought I would, before 
proceeding to any lucrative task, divert myself a little 
so that I might later approach serious business with a 
more open mind. 

It is my custom, when I am in need of recreation 
from the cares of commerce, to frequent the criminal 
courts and to attend the sentences passed upon those 
brought before them, as well as to be a spectator of 
the ensuing executions. No pastime affords greater 
relief from the dull, everyday round of buying and 
selling ; while the contrast between one s own pleasant 
position and that of the pauper who is to be beheaded, 
adds a zest which I recommend to all men of 

I strolled, therefore, to the court in which I had 
heard that certain criminals were to be that morning 
briefly examined and presumably dispatched. 

Great was my surprise upon entering to find that 
I had come just in time to hear the last evidence given 
and sentence pronounced upon the same young man 
w r ho had so imprudently bought my horse the night 
before! Did I say imprudently ?-- Well ! The 
designs of Providence are hidden from us, and it is 
not for me to judge another ! . . . While I pitied 
him, therefore, I had nothing to reproach myself with, 
for I had fulfilled in the most honourable fashion the 
only contract with which I was concerned in the 
matter. The pursuers had arrested him before he had 
left the city more than a mile. He stood accused of 
eating dates : a practice (you will remember) forbidden 
throughout all those dominions. He had been seen in 
the act by the Sultan s officers a week before and his 
name and description had been sent round to every 


city. Indeed a troop was hot upon his trail at the 
moment he had come up the night before imploring 
for my mount. Sentence was pronounced, and the 
unfortunate young man was led out to execution. 

" My natural love of such sights would have led me 
to follow him, when one more act of Heaven (I dare 
not ascribe the inspiration to my poor unaided soul) 
suddenly put an exceedingly valuable thought into 
my mind. I addressed the judge in a loud voice, 
complaining in the matter of my horse. At first he 
was disturbed and inclined to silence me, not under 
standing what plea I could have in this particular 
case ; but I made bold to arrest his attention and told 
him that the evidence I had chanced to hear proved 
clearly that the horse on which the unfortunate young 
man had tried to escape was one stolen from me but 
a few hours before. This I was prepared to prove. 
The officers of the court were examined and admitted 
my description to be exact as to the horse, and, what 
was a clinching piece of evidence, as to the details 
of the saddle, the workmanship of which they had 

" I informed the judge further that I had ridden into 
the town the evening before. I was prepared to bring 
witnesses from the guard at the gate who had seen 
me pass. And when these were summoned they agreed 
that I had entered riding a horse of the description I 
had just given. I could see that the judge inclined 
to the justice of my plea ; the officers of the court 
naturally fell in with his mood ; I made him, I think, 
the more gracious by my assurance that I would not 
dream of making too exact a claim. If the animal 
were but restored to me I should be satisfied, nor would 
I ask anything for dilapidation or loss of time. I was 


only too glad (I said) to have been of the most insigni 
ficant service to the court. 

The judge now smiled upon me with evident 
approval, and was further confirmed in his decision 
by remembering that even if I claimed any compensa 
tion it would not come out of his pocket but the 
public s ; and I have no doubt that this argument, 
though not explicitly put forward, was present in the 
mind of all the officers of the court as well. The judge 
therefore ordered that the animal should be restored 
to me, and was pleased to use the following words. 
They are not my own. I am not responsible for them. 
But I am glad that he used them. 

" This honest merchant/ said he, r who has given 
a very clear account of his movements, we are in some 
fashion beholden to, on account of the temporary 
loss which he has suffered in the filching of his mount 
by the criminal with whom we have just dealt. He 
was indirectly the cause of that criminal s arrest. 
The least we can do, therefore, is to give him his 
property back with the least possible delay. I order 
that the animal with all his accoutrements, having 
first been properly fed and groomed, shall be restored 
to him. 

" I very humbly bowed and thanked the court for 
its just decision. But a new complication arose. 

" The chief officer of the court, the captain of those 
who had arrested the young man (he had by this time 
lost his head, so that there was no trouble to be feared 
from that side), conferred with his colleagues and then 
prostrated himself upon the earth before the judge, 
begging to be allowed an explanation. The judge 
assumed a disturbed expression and bade him be 
brief. He arose and admitted with evident grief that 


the horse, in the excitement of the arrest, and in the 
darkness of the moment (for all this had passed in the 
night), had got loose and was lost. 

" Seeing the rising anger of the judge I hastily inter 
vened. I said that I yielded to no one in my admiration 
for the Mounted Police of the Anti-Date force, the 
renown of whose efficiency had reached me even in my 
own distant land. I said that I would be the last to 
cause the least injustice or even pain. I begged that 
his Importance (for such was the simple title of a 
judge in that country) would overlook the unfortunate 
accident whereby my horse had been lost. I concluded 
by saying that I would be perfectly content with what 
we merchants called a minimum valuation, that 
is, a payment of the price the horse would have fetched 
from what we merchants also call a willing seller. 
In a phrase of which I confess I was secretly proud, 
I hinted that the doing of justice in this matter would 
not only be of no charge to the court, but even of some 
profit to them, seeing that there were certain to be 
fees of transfer, registration, and what not. As a 
layman I was ignorant of their amount, but I knew 
them to be attached to such affairs all out of the 

The judge, the officers of the court, and every 
lawyer present, the very sweepers were moved to 
action. Sundry papers w r ere signed (to which I put 
the name of Ali it was the first that occurred to me) . 
I was paid the sum of thirty pieces of gold, and after 
profound obeisances to all present, and especially to my 
benefactor the judge, I left the court, yet richer than 
I had entered it. 

< . 

My children, what next ? 


"It is a universal rule in commerce to follow your 
profits and cut your losses, and men of my profession 
have a sort of instinct which tells them how long the 
tide will be flowing with them and when it will turn. 
I decided that there was yet one more step for me to 

The arrest had taken place not far from the edge 
of the wood whence I had first perceived the city. 
There my horse, the evening before, had found good 
pasture. There had I loosened his saddle. There 
had he known an excellent place of repose. Thither 
did I wisely suppose my lost friend to have repaired. 
I sauntered therefore out of the city as though engaged 
upon no more than a stroll, and sure enough, a league 
away, under the trees which afforded a grateful shade, 
the noble beast was reclining, hampered only by his 

" I loosened the girths. He was grateful, and our 
friendship was renewed. But though my affection 
was increased by such a recovery, I steeled my heart 
for what I purposed next to do. 

" It is a maxim of all sound business that a thing 
should be sold as often as possible, and it was clear 
that I now had an opportunity of selling this charming 
creature for the third time. It was equally clear that, 
if I delayed, the opportunity would pass ; for the 
story of my appearance in court would spread through 
the city, the officers would talk with their friends 
about the saddle and the description of the animal ; 
I might even get into a difficult tangle with the 

" But the whole of this propitious day was in the 
hand of Heaven. For, while yet the sun was high, 
there came upon me through the pasture a shepherd 


driving his sheep, and to him I told a tale that I had 
been sent by my master to sell the horse I was leading, 
and his saddle, to a certain dealer, who had already 
seen them and bargained for them. I had been given 
a writing with the name of the dealer in the neighbour 
ing city, but I had lost the writing and could not 
remember the name or direction. 

" The shepherd told me that he only went to that 
city from time to time, but he was well acquainted 
with it ; the purchaser could be none other than 

The moment he pronounced this name I clapped my 
hands together and said : Abd-ul-Eblis ! That was 
the name ! I thanked the shepherd for thus refresh 
ing my memory, and I carefully walked by the beast s 
side as should a mere servant by his master s precious 
possession. I avoided the main gate (which I had 
now passed twice and where I might be too well 
known) and entered the city by a little postern. 
I found from inquiry of a blind man which 
was the more prudent the way to Abd-ul-Eblis s 

I made no plan of what I should do, for on those 
days when I am specially favoured by the Most High 
I leave His Power to guide me . . . and to guide also 
those with whom I do business. I went no farther 
than to tell the groom that I had come to find a pur 
chaser for the horse not indeed in this city, where 
I had been told the market was poor, but in a place 
two days journey away, where the news of the famous 
beast s coming had already been spread. I then 
wandered out into the streets to take the cool air of 
the evening. It was as I had expected. When I 
returned to see that my horse had been well fed, 


Adb-ul-Eblis was present in the stable and eager to 

He pointed out to me the advantages he enjoyed for 
disposing of horses, the dangers of the distant journey 
of which I had spoken to the groom, the possibility 
of what is called in the language of that country 
a proposition/ He showed me what, in my in 
nocence, I might have forgotten, that it was not as 
though the horse was my own. That / could only 
be a gainer. That my master would be none the 
wiser. That I might pretend any accident to have 
taken place (for indeed such an accident was likely 
if I went on farther). He also was at the pains of 
repeating what I might have forgotten, that I was free 
to retain for myself some portion of the price, assuring 
me that he would keep silent upon the matter. In the 
end I promised to hand him over the horse for sixty 
pieces of gold. 

There are some men, my dear nephews, who even 
in these circumstances would have begun bargaining 
for a higher price. These are men who love the 
making of small sums and who do not understand the 
enormous weight of caprice and chance in human 
affairs. So far from attempting to get a higher price, 
I expressed my gratitude and said that for my part I 
was quite willing to take less, but that I somewhat 
feared my master s anger and could not return to him 
without at least fifty pieces of gold, adding that I 
considered ten pieces a sufficient reward for myself. 
At the same time I advised Abdul not to sell the saddle 
with the horse, nor did I omit to remind him that 
horses of a light colour are more easily dyed than those 
of a darker hue. 

" At these suggestions of mine he looked upon me 


mournfully for a few moments and then slowly counted 
out sixty pieces of gold. I took a long farewell of the 
kindly, patient, and beautiful animal, which had borne 
me to this fortune in the short space of one day, and 
then walked forth through the city into the evening, 
preferring the chance of a lodging in the forest to 
tempting further the singular Fate that had so far 
befriended me. 

The weather was warm, the neighbouring wood, as 
I knew by experience, hospitable. There would I 
spend the few hours of darkness, building myself a 
small fire to keep off the beasts and to cherish me. 
Thence, I did not doubt, I could the next morning, with 
now so satisfactory a capital, proceed to the re-edifica 
tion of my fortune. 

I reached the wooded hill which overlooked the 
city. I recited my third night prayers. Before 
building my fire and disposing myself to sleep, I 
looked at the outline of the walls and domes and grace 
ful minarets against the last of the evening, and I 
revolved in my mind that thought which shall ever be 
mine on my departure from any town. Let it also be 
yours, my dear children, in all your travels. 

; For just as when you come to a new city of a 
morning, before you enter it, and after having prayed 
God, you should muse within yourself what sums of 
money you may hope to lift from its inhabitants ; 
so when you leave any city at evening, never omit 
(after due thanks to your Creator !) to calculate what 
sums you have indeed subtracted from those to whom 
you bid farewell." 

As the old merchant ceased it was like the ending 
of a strain of solemn music, the echoes of which linger 
and continue in the memory. The strangely moving 


words he had uttered stirred a profound in the depths 
of their young souls, and they sat with bowed heads 
until the horrid outrage of the Muezzin s call murdered 
that sacred silence. 

At the signal the lads rose and filed out on tiptoe 
leaving their uncle with his eyes closed and his lips 
murmuring in prayer. 


That is : 





WHEN the hour of public executions had arrived 
(they were more numerous than usual) his 
young nephews respectfully assembled at the feet 
of the aged millionaire and received the further 
account of his fortunes. 

" You might imagine, my children," he began, " that 
having this small capital so happily furnished me by 
Providence in the short space of a single day, I would 
again venture upon a commercial undertaking. That 
would have been indeed my natural course ; but you 
must remember that I could not, without great danger, 
enter the city I had just left, lest my able transactions 
should lead me into contact with those at whose 
expense they had been conducted. Further, I was in 
a strange country with no knowledge of my way and 
with nothing to guide me save the happy circum 
stance that I was still within the boundaries of our 
holy religion. Most of those I should meet would thus 
be True Believers, whose frailties I could better under 
stand than those of the Kafir, and of whom therefore 
I could (under the all-powerful guidance of Heaven) 
more easily take advantage. 

Devoutly remembering the signal mercies shown 
to me by Allah in this last short day, I determined to 
follow the same course as I had when my good fortune 



came to me to lie passive under the Mighty Hand 
directing me and to trust to luck. 

" I took some sleep in the night beside my fire, but 
hardly had I awakened at dawn when I was aware of 
a group approaching me through the forest track. 
They were a party of a dozen or so, half of them on 
foot, half of them mounted ; of no great consequence 
if one might judge by their clothing, which, my dear 
nephews, is in most occasions in life the signal by 
which we may know whether to revere men or to 
despise them. Both beasts and humans in this group 
were travel-stained as having come from some great 

" As I saw them before they saw me, I naturally 
took the precaution of creeping up behind them 
through the trees in order to overhear the object of 
their journey. It appeared that they were bound on 
pilgrimage to the shrine of a Most Holy Man, to obtain 
his oracle in a matter which concerned their miserable 

" My mind was at once made up. I ran back by 
a circuitous course through the trees, came to a place 
ahead of their progress, and there, spreading my little 
mat upon the sward, I prostrated myself in prayer. 
Indeed, I was thus able to kill two birds with one stone, 
for I had not yet said those morning prayers of the 
True Believer which I had never omitted in all my 
life, save when I happened to be flying from justice 
and therefore deprived of leisure. 

" As I heard them coming up behind me I raised 
my head and voice at once, and fell into a perfect 
ecstasy of worship, which did not fail to impress the 
simple mountaineers. They halted respectfully until 
I saw fit to terminate my conversation with the Most 


High. I pretended to be so absorbed in my contempla 
tion of divine things as not to notice them : for to 
keep them waiting secured religious as well as worldly 
respect. They approached me with deference and 
even awe. I told them I was bound for the shrine of 
a Most Holy Man whose name I gave them. They 
were overjoyed to discover that they had a companion 
filled with the same sentiments as themselves. 

" We also/ said their leader, are engaged upon 
the same sacred mission. For we have been informed 
by a messenger (whom we dispatched a month ago 
from our village) that the Saint will graciously receive 
us and give us a reply upon a doubtful matter of wild 
hedge-pigs which has greatly excited our tribe, whether 
they be pork or no. 

" I let them convey by chance phrases the direction 

we had to travel and the distance of our goal. I was 

delighted to discover that our way did not lie through 

-the city, and that we might hope to reach the Holy 

One before night. 

" The journey was tedious, passing over burnt land 
with but a few wretched villages upon the track ; but 
by the late afternoon we could see far off, coloured by 
the declining rays of the sun, a small, white-domed 
building, the tomb of a great saint long dead, by the 
side of which a large group of tents and a considerable 
assembly lying out in the open round them cooking 
their evening meal, beasts of burden, and all the 
movement of a camp, showed us that we were reaching 
the term of our day s journey. 

When we reached the camp I joined the thickest 
part of the throng, separating from the group with 
which I had been marching. I made my evening prayers 
in as conspicuous a place as possible, prolonged them 

t < 


prodigiously, the better to impress my new neighbours, 
and then lay down, uncertain what the course of the 
next day should be. 

It was revealed to me in a dream. 
In that dream there appeared a bright and bene 
ficent Being who with one hand was relieving of his 
superfluous wealth an unconscious pilgrim to his left, 
and with the other was conferring precisely the same 
favour on another to his right. Each of the two 
pilgrims had his face turned away from the Blessed 
Genius thus engaged and seemed unconscious of the 
process to which he was subjected. The Glorious Visi 
tant, without interrupting its occupation or ceasing with 
mechanical regularity to dip its hands into the pouches 
of its unwitting neighbours, looked upon me with the 
most benign expression, winked, and disappeared. 

I awoke. It was yet dark. I pondered until 
dawn what the revelation might mean. With the 
rising of the sun inner as well as outer light was 
bestowed upon me. I interpreted in the following 
fashion the vision that had thus been vouchsafed to 
me and the event proved me to have divined the right 
reading by interpretation : 

In every place largely frequented by pilgrims you 
will, my dear nephews (if your commercial pursuits 
lead you to such spots in after life), discover two kinds 
of men. There are those who have already spent their 
all under the influence of the Spirit and are about to 
depart. These, being in a necessity to raise a viaticum 
for their return, will eagerly convert into cash at a 
vile price such wretched objects as remain to them. 
On the other hand, those arriving are flush of money 
and eager to acquire holy relics and memorials of the 
blessed days before them. 


" With two such markets before one s eyes and 
clamouring for exploitation, all that is required is a 
little judgment upon which is which, who is who, and 
what is what. Such a judgment is essential to any 
commercial success, but especially to success with 
people in a state of religious exaltation. For whereas 
this mood often conduces to folly, it sometimes so 
supernaturally brightens the intellectual faculties of 
devotees as to procure most cruel rebuffs for him who 
attempts to take advantage of it. 

" I mixed with my fellow- worshippers. I picked 
out those whom I judged from their anxious expression, 
coupled with their preparations for a journey, to be 
eager sellers. From these I acquired at prices quite 
surprisingly small, all manner of objects sticks, 
chaplets, sandals, water-bottles, rags, and cords while 
I dexterously sheered off the few who seemed too much 
inclined to bargain, and whom not even a prolonged 
residence at the shrine had wholly purged of avarice. 
The remainder were quite sufficient for my needs. 

" With a stock thus acquired at the expenditure of 
not a tenth of my capital, I next proceeded to mix with 
the more prosperous new-comers, pressing on them now 
one object and now another (sandals, lace, rags, bits 
of bone and leather) , as some things of peculiar sanctity, 
either as dedicated to the shrine of the Dead Holy 
Man or as having touched the person of the Living 
One. I discovered a very brisk market indeed, at 
prices varying from a hundred to a thousand times 
the original cost of the rubbish. To each bit of rag, 
bone, or what not I was careful to affix a pedigree 
written in various hands and proving it authentic. 

( In these negotiations I was careful, at the least 
note of suspicion, to pretend a complete indifference ; 


and to one or two more than usually guileful I even 
made the sacrifice of giving a yard of used cord or a 
hopelessly worn sandal, remarking as I did so that 
Sacred Things should not be made a matter of traffic. 

In this fashion I passed four days so absorbed in 
the interest of the occupation that I quite forgot (it 
was an error on my part) to present myself within 
the clamouring line of those who daily demanded the 
opportunity to fall down before the object of our 
pilgrimage and to offer him obeisance. It was a 
mistake which nearly cost me dear, for the Holy Man 
had his hired watchers among the crowd. 

On the evening of the fourth day, as I was privately 
counting my gains under a secluded bush where I 
hoped to be unobserved, I was disturbed by a smart 
tap upon the shoulder and a summons from an aged 
but tall and still strong man, armed with a formidable 
bludgeon. This person bade me follow him without 
comment, and told me I had been granted the singular 
favour of personal access to The Master. 

1 It was with mixed feelings that I accompanied 
my guide. We elbowed our way through the foremost 
ranks of worshippers to that inmost place wherein the 
Holy One communed with his Creator. They envied 
me and gazed with awe upon one so privileged, but for 
my part my heart sank lower and lower, and I waited 
in something approaching panic the interview that 
had been so graciously afforded. 

" I was introduced through a curtain into a low hut, 
wholly devoid of ornament, built of dried mud and 
lit only by two small smoky lamps that stood upon 
the floor. I dimly perceived before me in this half- 
darkness the figure of a very aged man, incredibly 
emaciated with prolonged fast and vigil. He was 


upon his knees with a chaplet in his hands. His eyes 
were cast upon the ground, which his long but sparse 
white beard almost touched. He seemed oblivious to 
all the external world, and was plunged in profound 
communion with his Maker. 

The attendant in low but angry whispers bade me 
prostrate myself, which I was not slow in doing ; and 
in that posture I waited for a space of time so tedious 
that it seemed to me the greater part of one hour. 
But during all that time I dared not move ; for though 
I had never visited this particular shrine, I had heard 
tales of what had happened to those who underrate 
the Unseen Powers. I was relieved at last by a dis 
tinct and hollow voice bidding me in measured tones 
to rise. I arose, and found that we were alone. The 
attendants had been dismissed by a gesture while my 
face was yet buried on the ground, and though I have 
no doubt that they were within earshot, I suffered the 
added awe of loneliness. 

" The Holy One still maintained for a moment his 
impassive attitude of prayer, then slowly pivoted 
round on his knees, turned his luminous eyes upon 
me, and sternly asked me what profit I had made by 
my infamous trade during the last few days. I felt 
that all was known to him. I did not (I thank Heaven 
for its mercies !) attempt to deceive him and thus 
jeopardize my life and reason. I told him the full 
tale and awaited his sentence. 

There was a long pause, during which what little 
was left of my courage ebbed away. I felt prepared 
to hear some short sentence of doom and resigned 
myself to my fate. But I had happily miscalculated 
the serene wisdom which accompanies holiness. 

The Saint spoke next in a more benevolent and 


softer voice, bade me be seated cross-legged before him, 
and adopting the same attitude pronounced the follow 
ing remarkable words : 

" The Just, the Merciful (Whose name be exalted !), 
has given to different men different aptitudes. The 
fool attempts that of which he is incapable. The 
wise man recognizes his limitations. 

" In the silence that followed I turned these weighty 
phrases over in my mind and recognized excerpts 
from the Proverbs of Mar-Hakim, whose wisdom has 
been collected by the Persians, and has been famous 
since the times of the second Omar. 

" After a short interval the voice continued : 

" In mutual appreciation and in mutual benefits 
each acquires profit. The short-sighted forfeit advan 
tage by too much grasping. 

" These words, which were chanted rather than 
said, I recognized to be from a totally different collec 
tion of popular sayings, formerly current in Arabia, 
and reduced to writing in the first century of Hegira 
by the learned of Rasht. It was clear that I was in 
the presence of a man unusually well informed, and 
my conviction was confirmed when after yet another 
solemn pause the voice continued as though in con 
clusion : 

" In acquiring money there is profit, but in letting 
it slip there is none at all/ 

" This last jewel of wisdom I immediately recalled 
as part of yet another collection, to wit, the Sacred 
Books of the Jews ; and from this further example 
of immense erudition my estimation of the Being 
possessed of it arose to the clouds. 

" After such a preface I might have expected further 
general statements of a moral nature from my host, 



when suddenly I perceived a total change in the tones 
of his voice and a similar change in his attitude. He 
put off the preoccupation of religion. He took on the 
tone of familiar intercourse proper to temporal affairs. 
He smiled genially and entered upon a conversation 
such as one might enjoy in the bazaar of any city or 
in the private hospitality of any merchant. 

" There are some/ he said, who would have blamed 
your conduct ; and in a sense I do so ; for I cannot 
excuse your passage of four whole days without a 
thought of heaven. But then, we are all agreed that 
the driving of a trade, especially if it be remarkably 
rapid and lucrative, is a very worthy occupation, and 
it is one of my regrets that my professional devotion 
to the Other World has curtailed my own activities 
in the same line. 

I am visited by thousands of respectful worship 
pers. The small amounts of alms which they graciously 
leave with my treasurer might easily be increased by 
various commercial activities. 

Indeed, I have from time to time attempted to 
establish such in this camp, but I regret to say with 
no success. I opened a canteen here but two years ago 
where refreshments were sold to the new arrivals at 
from three to five times their value. But the evil 
servant to whom I entrusted the management of this, 
concern decamped with the whole of the profits. I 
obtained the satisfaction of having him put to death 
by a distant friend, but I was never able to recover 
his ill-gotten gains. 

At another time I entered into a contract with 
certain brigands who hold the passes of the mountains. 
It was clearly understood between us that they should 
hold up the worshippers returning from my shrine and 


that one-half of the ransoms they collected should be 
paid into my chests. But from that day to this I 
have not received a penny. 

On yet another occasion it occurred to me that 
I might fix a regular tribute to replace the voluntary 
alms which, though considerable, leave room for im 
provement. But the alarming falling off in receipts 
and the dwindling of my income made me withdraw 
the order within six months of its issue. 

All these experiences combined, my dear Mah- 
moud/ said he familiarly (thus showing that he knew 
my true name and disturbing me not a little), have 
convinced me that I have not what you men of affairs 
call " a business sense." I may have a latent talent, 
I may even have a genius, for religion. When I tell 
you that I sometimes pass three days without changing 
my position of prayer and without taking food or 
drink, the whole performance watched by a great 
crowd of astonished faithful, you will agree that I am 
not without capabilities of my own. But I am 
reluctantly convinced that what the Giaours call 
" a good nose for a deal " is not one of them. 

Here I began to interrupt him with the usual 
compliments, and would have assured him that any 
man of ability had but to train himself for affairs to 
do as well as another, when he genially stopped me 
with a gesture and said : 

" No, my dear Mahmoud (again the use of my 
name disturbed me), whatever else we are let us not 
be hypocrites. Let us frankly acknowledge our limita 
tions. You, as I am now convinced, know how to 
sell and to buy, and have all the qualities for discovering 
the dearest and the cheapest markets. Much as I 
have desired to attain to the same faculties I have 


failed, and at my age (which, though it is Tiot the no 
years reported, is at any rate well over sixty) it is too 
late to change. I will therefore make you what 
is called, I believe, in your world an offer. 

1 (With what relief did those words fall on my 
ears ! I did not realize for the moment how greatly 
it was to his advantage to have begun by frightening 
your unhappy uncle and what an opportunity this 
had given him for negotiations ! ) 

I will make you a proposition. Think carefully 
over it, and at the end of a reasonable time give me 
your decision. I offer you two alternatives. The 
one is that you should continue your trade subject to 
the supervision of my agents, and that when you have 
reached a total of 1,000 pieces of gold you shall be 
impaled and the money confiscated. The other is 
that you shall continue to use your evident talents for 
the furtherance of this trade, but that I shall be 
regarded as a sleeping partner in the same, with half 
the takings. The choice lies with you. . . . Pray, 
pray take your time. Undue haste has spoilt many 
an excellent business contract, and I would not have 
you ruin your chances. Do not, he continued, 
repressing my evident anxiety to accept his terms, 
do not let your judgment be prejudiced by any feeling 
of obligation. Think the alternatives over carefully 
and then let me know your conclusion. Take your 

Restraining too great an evidence of haste, I told 
him that my mind was already made up and that I 
would be honoured to accept his second offer. 

I think, Mahmoud, said he, rising, that you 
have acted with wisdom, though perhaps with a little 
precipitation. Let us, then, regard the matter as 


settled. Every evening my servants will call upon 
you for one-half of your takings, and they meanwhile 
will protect you in every way. 

I prostrated myself once more, kissed the ground 
at his feet, and left the hut in a very different mood 
from that in which I had entered it. 

" I remained in the camp for the matter of about a 
month. I extended my operations ; and every even 
ing the servants of the Holy One attended me and I 
handed over half of my takings. During the whole 
of that period my capital continued to increase 

" But no good endures for ever. The time came 
when this even tenor was threatened in a very unex 
pected way. 

" The Holy One was visited by certain ambassadors 
from the Grand Something or Other residing in the court 
of the Caliph, who informed him that his position was 
duly recognized by the authorities, and that they bore 
with them an Illuminated Charter confirming it. The 
temporal advantages of His Holiness s trade, however, 
were no less clearly evident to the Caliph than the 
religious ones, and His Holiness would therefore be 
good enough in future to hand over one-half of his 
receipts to the Imperial Treasury. 

" Heaven knows with what bitterness the Holy 
Man agreed ; which, having done, he sent for me 
again and told me that it was now necessary for him 
to ask me for three-fourths of my receipts. In vain 
did I point out to him that all great empires had fallen 
by the increase of taxation. He was adamant, and I 
therefore reluctantly agreed to the new arrangement ; 
taking a solemn oath to observe it for at least one year. 
But I asked him whether at the expiration of that 


time, in case I should find the new bargain more 
than I could support, I might depart out of the city ? 
To this he agreed, and confirmed it with an oath 
equally solemn. 

" That night I put together all my accumulated 
wealth (which now filled not less than four large bags 
with gold and silver) and charging it upon the mule 
of a peculiarly devout and therefore unobservant and 
abstracted pilgrim, and drawing the innocent beast 
away in the darkness by the bridle, I left the camp as 
slowly and cautiously as I might. 

Emissaries were sent out to kill me within half an 
hour of my departure. As I heard their approach I 
turned my mule round towards the camp as though 
I were arriving, and as they passed me, I said I was a 
pilgrim who had lost his way in the night and asked 
if I were on the right road for the shrine. This simple 
ruse deceived them. They went their way and I was 
alone once more. Still, their passage sufficiently 
alarmed me. I gave up the road for a less frequented 
path and wandered all that night through an unfamiliar 
district, for my poor beast could go no faster than a 
walking pace, so heavy were the bags of treasure which 
he bore. 

By dawn I felt myself secure, and 

But here the Old Gentleman heard the first intoler 
able note of the Muezzin and stopped short, motioning 
to his nephews that they should leave him, which they 
did with their customary humility, each wondering in 
his heart whether he might not later feel a vocation to 
the Religious Life. 


That is : 




" A S I proceeded the next morning across the waste 
x~jL (continued Mahmoud to his nephews on 
their next visit) I turned over in my mind how best 
to employ the considerable sum which my honest 
mule bore so patiently upon his back. Here was a 
year s sustenance for fifty labourers or more, and with 
so much money a man earns more. For, as it is 
written in the Holy Book, The labourer is worthy 
of his hire, but whatever is over is not for him. And 
again, Blessed are the poor. 

There are not wanting occasions for the employ 
ment of poorer men and the gathering of the fruits of 
their labour into one s own pouch. But there is one 
difficulty in all such matters, which is the point of 

You will recollect (my dear nephews) how often 
in the past a most careful investment of mine had gone 
wrong, and how often a mere hazard, not even of my 
own choosing, had brought me sudden fortune. How 
in the matter of the sheep I was beaten almost to death 
by the market-police, while in the matter of the horse 
I had sold, three times over, an animal that had cost 
me nothing and had fallen to me by the pure goodness 
of God. How in the matter of the dates I had been left 
penniless by a man of greater Business Sense, Foresight, 



Organizing Ability, Eye for the Market, Knowledge of 
Men, and the rest of the virtues ; while in the Matter 
of the Holy Man I had as my weary mule proved 
done extremely well out of a quite unexpected acci 
dent. Even as this last example passed through my 
mind I remembered, for the first time, that the mule 
himself was a new accession of fortune, over and above 
the silver he carried. For I had not had the incon 
venience of paying for him. He was a fine beast, and 
in spite of his fatigue still looked well bred. I esti 
mated him at quite ten pieces of gold, and mentally 
added that sum on my tablets to the total value of my 

" It was so musing that I found myself approaching 
a high tangle of reeds, through which a narrow path 
wound and was lost to view. On this path I engaged. 
The reeds on either side were so tall as to hide the 
farther landscape, and so closely set that one could 
see but a few yards into their mass. 

" After perhaps an hour of such journeying my mule 
and I came out suddenly upon the firm bank of a broad 
and shallow river whose noise and coolness, swift 
current and clear stream were a delight after so many 
hours of arid travel. There did I sit me down. There 
did I unload and hobble my patient companion. There 
did we drink of the good water, and there did the mule 
eat plentifully of cool grass. But I made no meal, for 
the oat-cakes and cheese which I had taken from 
the Common Table of the Poor in the Pilgrims camp 
were now exhausted. 

" It was this circumstance which made me a little 
anxious for the day. I looked about me, stood up on 
the highest part of the bank, and then saw that the 
shore opposite had been artificially heightened to form 


a regular levee or embankment, beyond which the flat 
country was hidden. I determined to seek this point 
of advantage for a view. I reloaded my mule, carefully 
forded the stream in its various branches and climbed 
to the farther shore. 

At the summit of the embankment, which was 
evidently of recent construction, my effort was well 
rewarded, for I saw a sight that set at rest all anxiety 
for food and shelter. 

The embankment on which I stood swept round 
in a horseshoe shape not everywhere finished, but 
everywhere traced out. It thus enclosed a peninsula, 
bounded by the river : a space of marshy ground full 
of stagnant pools and water-grasses. Three or four 
furlongs away, cutting across the whole neck of the 
horseshoe of swamp and stretching from the river to 
the river again, ran the well-built stone wall of a strong 
town, the flat roofs and low domes of which (it had no 
tower or minaret) made a ridge of snow-white against 
the intense blue of the sky. Far away beyond were 
distant mountains, purple in the heat. 

Scattered over the swamp itself and on the unfin 
ished sections of the embankment were groups of 
labourers working with spades and barrows, and, 
overseeing them, near-by to me, a young man of ener 
getic carriage, well dressed in a brown garment, rich, 
but suitable to his work and girded. He had no sandals, 
for they would have impeded him on such ground ; he 
bore an inlaid ebon staff with an ivory hand-grasp, 
and was occupied, when I first saw him, in shouting a 
new order to a distant group of diggers. His back 
was towards me. He had not seen my approach. 

1 As he turned, to proceed along the levee towards 
another group, he caught sight of my mule and myself 


and at once started to run, pouring out when he had 
reached us a mixed flood of greetings, warnings, and 
varied exclamations. 

We were to beware of the embankment ! It 
was but just raised and was not yet stable ! Was it 
not a fine work ? Half-completed, as we saw it, it 
had taken but three months. Did I notice how 
thoroughly it had cut off the river ? Had I not found 
it firm as I came up it from the bank ? Would I be 
pleased to go carefully lest the edge should be injured ? 
. . . and so on. 

It was clear from such a salutation with what sort 
of man I had to deal. Here was an Enthusiast. It 
is a character of the utmost service to the Man of 
Affairs. He was of that sort which is labelled in our 
indexes as The Constructive Wild Man/ and happy 
is the Captain of Industry who chances upon such a 
one. He was perhaps thirty years of age, strong, 
short in stature, very dark in complexion, with steady 
but eager eyes, and such an expression of grasp, resolu 
tion, and immediate decision as should lead to a 
fortune, not perhaps for himself but at least for anyone 
who knew how to use him ; for he was as keen as a 
boy upon the matter occupying him, and therefore 
careless for the moment of all other things. 

" I answered him with a mixture of sympathy, 
caution, and gravity, which I was glad to see impressed 
him. I praised his work vaguely but courteously 
enough. I asked the names of the river and the town, 
and also his own. All these he gave me ; and then 
asked me whether I would not share the midday 
meal he was about to take. I said I should be over 
joyed to do so : and so I was, for I saw the pros 
pect of refreshment at the charges of another, an 


opportunity, which remember my dear nephews is 
never to be neglected by men of clear commercial 

" He led me, followed by the mule, to a shady 
place where a few trees stood on a drier part of the 
enclosed plain. There we found excellent meats, and 
there we reclined for above an hour, during the whole 
of which he did not cease to overwhelm me with 
description, praise, and prospect of the great enter 
prise in which he was wholly absorbed. 

" This horseshoe bend, he told me, outside his native 
town, had never been utilized. It was flooded in the 
spring when the snow melted on the distant hills ; 
the rest of the year it was a mixture of dry cracked 
mud and marsh, breeding fever, full of insects and ill- 
airs at evening. He had been left an orphan and was 
apprenticed to a maker of mill-wheels, such as were 
used in the stream above the city. One day the idea 
had occurred to him that such instruments could be 
used not only for the grinding of corn but for the 
raising of water from ditches and therefore for draining. 
With that his grand project had rushed into his 
mind. Why should not the marsh, which had so far 
been so serious a trouble, be turned to the profit of 
the city ? An embankment would keep out floods, 
drains cut through the enclosed marsh would collect 
the water and dry the whole. These drains could be 
regularly pumped out by wheels which the outer stream 
would turn, and a large area of good land would be 
added to the crowded town. On this new buildings 
could be raised and gardens laid out, to the great 
profit of all the citizens. For the city was increasing 
in importance, people were flocking in, there was 
crowding and difficulty and high rents, yet no place 


over which to expand between the marsh and the 

He had approached the council and headmen 
with this project. They had hesitated long. At last 
they had grudgingly advanced from the taxes a sum 
which he warned them was inadequate. Nevertheless 
he had set to work, and the results were now before 
me. The swamp was still swamp, the embankment 
not completed, of the drains not more than a sixth 
were dug, and the whole was a confusion of mud-heaps, 
apparent ruin and chaos, very unattractive to the eye 
and very unpromising, in its outward aspect at least, 
of any result. It had all the character of waste and 
folly yet a sum of money, small in comparison with 
many private resources and insignificant in the budget 
of the town, would suffice to crown the whole and to 
replace the wretched prospect of unfinished labour by 
a noble plain of rich gardens and new houses. But 
the headmen of the city were now disgusted and would 
vote no more. Rather did they threaten him with 
penalties for his loss of public pence. 

I had, during this torrent of talk, interjected here 
and there a question and no more. I had spoken 
guardedly and yet with no disrespect for his enthusiasm. 
I had, as we say among the merchants sounded him. I 
asked him in conclusion what sum he thought necessary 
for the completion of his enterprise. He named 300 
gold pieces, about one-quarter of what lay concealed 
in my sacks upon the ground, which sacks (I had 
casually informed him) were filled with coarse grain 
from the hills. 

Upon hearing this sum given, a sum so well 
within my means, an interior light broke upon me. I 
did not pray for guidance, as is my custom in any 


business dealing of doubt. I was directly and imme 
diately inspired. To this I owe the whole of my present 
position ; for it was the foundation of all that followed. 
I had suffered vicissitude. It is the lot of man. But 
henceforward my soul was to be filled with increasing 
and ever-increasing wealth until I should be able to 
call myself, as I do now, by far the richest man in all 
the Caliphate and perhaps in the world. This, my 
dear nephews, was the turning-point ! 

The old man s eyes were full of tears, his voice 
trembled ; never had the awestruck boys imagined 
that their uncle, in his greatness and serenity, could 
be so moved. 

" Oh, my children ! he continued in broken 
accents, " never forget in your own lives this master 
precept ; that of all those whom Allah presents to us 
for exploitation, none, none is so lucrative as the 
Creative Enthusiast ; the man who can make and 
produce and yet be managed ! the Genius devoid of 
Guile ! You may know him, that rare jewel, by his 

The old man recovered himself with dignity, wiped 
his eyes on a piece of priceless embroidered silk from 
Samarcand, threw it out of the window, and, in his 
more usual tone, pursued the recital of his fortunes. 

The young man never dreamt that such a chance 
and dusty traveller as I, with my one mule, could help 
him. He had merely burst out with his story to me 
as he would have done to any human being that would 
hear him. I had the more advantage of him from his 
ignorance of my real wealth. 

I told him soberly at the end of his tale that it 
interested me greatly, that his idea was evidently 
sound, but that the stupidity, ignorance, and suspicion 


of town councillors were common not only to his city, 
but to all others a thing which I, who had travelled 
widely, could judge. I assured him, out of a vast 
experience (which he accepted with the utmost sim 
plicity), that he could hope for no more from such a 
source. I then fell into a sort of bemused condition, 
as though I were ruminating what could next be done. 
The young man, his hopes now turned into a new 
channel, and, after so brief an acquaintance (for such 
is the nature of these enthusiasts) already beginning to 
look to me for aid, watched my face most anxiously. 
I continued silent. 

At last he could bear it no longer. He asked me 
impetuously what I should advise where could he 
turn ? What could be done ? It would be a tragedy 
a murder for his great scheme to fail merely because 
its obvious advantage could not be put before anyone 
who had the provision of 300 gold pieces necessary for 
paying the labourers till the plan was achieved. He 
sprang to his feet. He walked feverishly up and down. 
He betrayed all the symptoms of his case. 

I answered him with great deliberation and firm 
ness. I said, first of all, that I had nothing. It was 
a pity, for I thoroughly understood his idea. I admired 
it. I believed in it. Indeed, it was obviously sound. 
If I had had the wherewithal (said I) I would at once 
have made the advance. If I had had even a portion 
I would have put that portion at his disposal if only 
to show my sincere appreciation of his genius. For 
it was the neglect of men like himself (I continued) that 
hindered the progress of the world. But so it was 4 ! 
I had but my trade as an itinerant merchant in grain 
to support myself and a very large family which I 
had left at home in the hills. I had nothing laid by. 


. . . However, my annual tour through this and 
neighbouring provinces brought me into contact (these 
were my very words) with many notables possessed 
of ample reserves. In this very town now that he 
had told me its name I remembered two or three 
correspondents with whom I had done business in 
the past, though I had never seen them. These I 
would approach. And if he would give me an appoint 
ment that evening after sunset I would tell him if I 
had been able to effect anything. 

He overwhelmed me with thanks, led me to an 
excellent house of call in the town, and, leaving me 
there with an appointed hour for our meeting in the 
evening, he returned to his labours with a lighter 

I, for my part, retired to an inner room which I 
had hired, there disposed of my baggage (having seen 
to the stabling and feeding of my honest mule), and 
instantly fell upon my knees to thank Allah with all 
the fervour I could muster for His abounding grace. 
Indeed, my heart overflowed with gratitude when I 
considered the quite exceptional opportunity. I felt 
about this young man as does a caravan, when, after 
a weary march through the desert, there gleams a pure 
lake not half an hour away. How short a space of 
time now lay between this moment and the beginnings 
of splendid negotiations ! 

Having so prayed with the deepest sincerity and 
humility, I first took out exactly two hundred pieces 
of gold from my sacks, tied them into a kerchief about 
my person, and then lay down upon a mat to sleep, 
first warning the servants of the place to wake me 
when the young man should return. I slept soundly 
for many hours. 


" When they woke me it was already dark. I rose 
at once, lit the lamp, and received my young friend 
into the room. All was silent. We were alone under 
the one light of that subdued flame. The hour was 
propitious for what I had undertaken. 

" I told him that I had spent the interval, since he 
left me, in seeking my wealthy correspondents and in 
making myself acquainted with their views upon the 
town s circumstances and upon the opportunities for 
investment. I said that I had briefly and very cau 
tiously mentioned the works I saw going on in the 
swamp as I had approached their city, and that I had 
discovered at once, by their pitying contempt for his 
enterprise, that there was no chance at all of interesting 
them in its progress. They called it as did all their 
fellow-citizens a folly. They bitterly regretted the 
public money that had already been advanced. They 
would certainly advance no more. They talked freely 
of bringing him to trial for wasting the public revenue. 
As for any private investment of their own fortunes, I 
clearly saw that it was out of the question. 

" Here I paused to let this information sink in, and 
was pleased to observe the growing dejection of his 
features. But before he could voice his despair- 
though he had expected as much I relieved him by 
another strain. I told him I had raised a certain sum. 
Partly upon the security of my known stores of grain 
(of which I was carrying samples pointing to the bags 
on the floor that contained my money), partly on my 
own personal security as an honest merchant, poor 
but of regular and punctual habit in payment, I had 
secured a loan which I had told them was for the 
general purpose of increasing my business, but which 
in point of fact I intended to put at his disposal- 


such confidence had I in his scheme. I feared it would 
be insufficient, but it would be a beginning later we 
might find further means. 

" His honest, eager face changed as I spoke. It 
was delightful to feel that I could give so much joy, 
however brief, to so candid a soul. He had, however, 
a certain scruple. He said it was not his business, but 
he would rather there had been no ambiguity, and the 
money advanced for a purpose known to the lenders. 

" I praised the nobility of such hesitation, but I 
pointed out that the risk was mine : that I had only 
spoken of a general purpose of increasing my business/ 
no false phrase ; that I was so certain of our success 
that the loan was at any rate secure. In any case, 
business (of which he had little acquaintance) was 
always conducted on such lines (I assured him) and my 
backers being also business men would be the last to 
split hairs on points of honour when I paid back 
their loan. This soothed him and he was now quite 
prepared for what followed. 

I asked him again what sum he required ? He told 
me he employed a hundred labourers, that their wages 
came to twenty gold pieces a week, and that he esti 
mated fifteen weeks as the very least period in which 
the whole ground could be cleared and dried and set 
out. In all, he repeated, three hundred pieces of gold 
would be required : as he had said. I noted to myself 
privately once more that it was one-quarter of my 
hoard, and then, when he had completed his calcula 
tion, I thus addressed him : 

It is as I feared ! The sum I have obtained is 
hardly sufficient. I have raised but two hundred pieces 
of gold ! His face fell again. But that will take 
us pretty far, I went on. We may with care nearly 


complete our work, and the rest it should be easy to 

" It has always surprised me how exact such men 
are in judgment and yet how little they use their 
talent to their own advantage. He was anxious. He 
was certain that beginning on too small a sum was 
dangerous. But I persuaded him ; for no more (said 
I) could possibly be obtained. 

What made all smooth was my proposal for Articles 
between us. These generously proposed that, though 
I had found the money, yet of any resultant profit 
we should take equal shares. I propose that your 
own salary during the work/ said I, should be small ; 
indeed, no more than your bare maintenance. For 
we have no margin, nay, less than we need. But if 
you are not agreeable, pray name your terms/ He 
could find no words for my generosity ! Of course he 
would live on the least possible sum and work to an 
extreme ! He had no right (said he) to claim a half ! 
It was achievement, not fortune, that he desired. 

" I insisted. He gratefully yielded. We drew up 
the document in duplicate. He was especially gratified 
to find that I had left the whole direction to him. 
I know nothing of such things/ I said. I am only 
the Business Man. You are the Creator, the Artist : 
I am but the base mercantile instrument, and I shall 
be proud to share in your triumph. As I said this 
I put into my eyes the expression of inspired admiration 
which we of the commercial world very properly 
assume when we are dealing with this kind of fodder. 

" The next morning, in the cool, before the sun had 
power, our deeds were attested. I warned him to be 
utterly silent upon the source of his capital. I said I 
would be responsible for a rumour that a small saving 


of his own was engaged. He saw my point, and, though 
still scrupulous, consented. The work went forward. 

" My next step I had already planned. I had pri 
vately set aside for it a fixed sum, the equal of what 
I had given my partner. I hired a pleasant little house 
and garden in the city, with a fountain of clear water 
in its shaded court. I purchased a stock of good clothes 
and even one or two not over- violent jewels and I 
began to entertain. 

" I bought at a price which gave me pause a 
really wonderful cook ; I learnt the games of hazard 
to which the wealthier of the place were devoted. The 
headmen of the various quarters of the city, the principal 
councillors and magistrates learned one from another 
of the excellence of my table and the interest of my play. 
I became their intimate. From time to time I spoke 
of my friendship with the Enthusiast and of my regret 
at his wasting his poor savings upon the dreadful mess 
outside the walls. They agreed and all the while 
that fervid young man redoubled his ardour, himself 
worked side by side with his men, planned, urged them 
on, and effected prodigies of labour. Indeed, I feared 
for his health a natural anxiety for one in my situa 
tion but by the Mercy of Allah it remained perfect. 
He now, however, came to me more and more 
frequently and in a greater and greater anxiety. There 
were but fifty gold pieces remaining, but forty, but 
twenty ! . . . It was a matter of a few days ! . . . 
Already he had had to keep back wages, to devise 
half-shifts, even to discharge men ! . . . Could I not, 
oh ! could I not raise some further sum ? . . . As he 
had said, the work needed another month at least, and 
its present state was appalling, no visible security for 
a loan, all mud and confusion ! . . . I could only reply 


that I would do my best, but that I was not sanguine, 
and my long face increased his fears. 

" Perturbed as he was he had the generosity to 
regret my loss in the unfortunate enterprise. 

" I showed a strong indifference and told him that 
I was used to the rubs of this sad world and that my 
trust was in Allah ! 

" At last, as the day when his funds would be 
exhausted was at hand, I gave a feast of special impor 
tance to the treasurer and the chief magistrates of the 
city, and there led the talk on to the works still continu 
ing. I heard the usual grumble that the sum originally 
advanced out of the taxes was sunk in a morass, that 
the young man had, apparently, funds of his own for 
continuing the nonsense and that yet the city could 
recover nothing from him. I approved a threat that, 
out of sheer annoyance, they might stop the whole 
thing and put him in gaol till he should pay, or at 
any rate suffer for, his unsettled debt to his fellow- 

" Then it was that I struck, for the hour was ripe ! 
I pleaded for him as a friend. I let them feel my 
influence, I waited for the suggestion and I was not 
disappointed. The treasurer after a little solemn 
hesitation said to me : Sir, since you know this young 
fellow and seem to be in his councils, can you not 
discover what remains to him and perhaps make him 
reimburse the gold pieces he owes to our town-fund ? 
We should be beholden to you. I answered that my 
intimacy with the Enthusiast hardly went so far, but 
that I would do my best. Only I begged them for 
the interval of a week. 

" The day after the morrow of that feast the Young 
Man came to me in an excessive perturbation. The mud 


of his travail was still on his hands, and I was con 
cerned to see him limping from the effect (as he told 
me) of a heavy barrow which had overset as he wheeled 
it and crushed his big toe. But he neglected the pain 
in his extreme mental distress and told me that, having 
paid that week s wages, his gold pieces were now reduced 
to ten. Even if he himself ate but dry bread in the 
next few days and sold his poor belongings he could 
not meet the next account, which was but seven days 

" I cast my eyes on the ground and delayed a while, 
the more to impress him. I then told him in grave and 
subdued tones that I had very bad news. I glanced up 
a moment to note the wildness in his eyes upon this 
blow, then cast them down again to the ground and con 
tinued : I have private advice perhaps I should not 
have divulged it to you, for it was given in confidence, 
but my concern and affection for you have proved too 
strong I have private advice that the council intend 
this very week to demand most formally the repay 
ment of 100 pieces of gold which they say is due from 
you for advances long ago made, and failing payment 
to cast you into their dungeon. 

The Young Man leapt suddenly to his feet, gave a 
loud shriek, and made to beat his head against the 
wall. It was with difficulty that I held his hands and 
restrained him. 

Oh ! Curse my birth ! he cried in a paroxysm 
of despair. And curse my generation ! My day 
has come ! He raved. He incoherently demanded 
miracles and alternately denied the Justice of Allah ! 
Grown more subdued but still distraught, he moaned 
of his affections. He told me what I had hitherto 
not known and what interested me very little that 



he had a little sister, orphaned as he was, who, if he 
were put away, would starve or become the prey of 
strangers. What could be done ? What refuge dis 
covered ? Curse the day when his fatal dream had 
struck him ! Curse his works ! Curse the river ! 
Curse the marsh ! Curse the city ! 

And so on the usual reaction of enthusiasts. 
It was most distressing. I still held his writhing hands 
firmly till he was calm enough to hear me, and then 
said : 

" Listen to me. I have considered your case. I 
think I can rescue you. I have myself saved a little 
from my trading operations of the last two months in 
this town. My credit also is somewhat extended. / 
will find what you need. For I respect genius and 
I do not judge by common standards- 

I was proceeding when he burst out into extrava 
gant gratitude ; called me his benefactor, kissed my 
hand again and again, and irrelevantly alluded again 
to that little sister of his who really had nothing to do 
with the case. I checked him and continued : 

I will do more. You do not know your own 
value I mean your own moral and intellectual worth- 
nor what admiration they excite in men who judge as 
I do that the rest is dross. Our enterprise is clearly 
lost he nodded his agreement. My investment 
you may say is gone : or, at any rate, I must take it 
for what it is worth as a thing half-derelict and gravely 
threatened by the authorities. But you shall not go 
under. Your high talents shall not be w r asted so long 
as I have credit for commerce. . . . Come. Our 
original agreement is useless now. It is waste paper. 
Well, we ll tear it up. 

" Oh, sir ! said he. And what of you ? All 


this trust in me and my work, all this fund of money 
laid out by you ! All this kindness and support 
without which I- 

" Say no more/ I interrupted, my mind is made 
up. I have here a draft of my intention, which I hope 
will jump with yours. So saying I pulled out dupli 
cate papers on which were written very simple terms. 
The original (and now worthless) agreement for an 
imaginary and unobtainable profit was cancelled. I 
promised in the new draft to take over the wretched 
unfinished works (they were worth nothing), to indem 
nify the poor fellow against any public claims, and to 
guarantee him an ample salary for one year from the 
date of signing. I now added more. I bound myself, 
in the event of his death or prolonged imprisonment 
within this year, to pay to his heirs the sum of 100 
pieces of gold. This, I pointed out to him, would provide 
for his little sister (of whom I had now heard enough), 
while to myself I excused the extravagance by consider 
ing his really robust health and the power of my pro 
tection to save him from incarceration. 

" I would not have believed that a human being 
could feel so strongly. He fell at my feet, calling me 
his providence, his all, his bulwark and refuge. He 
said he did not know there was such goodness among 
men. I bade him not exaggerate. I reminded him 
how noble minds had in all ages loved to support the 
Arts, and cited Yussouf-abd-Arham, Sulim-ben-Achab, 
Muswuf, Wawoo, Mah and other worthies. At last our 
business was completed, the new deeds signed and attest 
ed by my servants, and the gallant fellow, for whose 
ingenuous character I still retain a profound respect, 
was put to sleep in happy exhaustion upon soft carpets 
in my guest-room. I there left him to dream of his 


little sister and his mud-heaps, while I betook myself 
to a short casting-up of accounts followed by nightly 
prayers to the All-Merciful who guides His servant into 
pleasant places. 

Next morning I sent the Enthusiast back to his 
labours (with a little cash to carry on with) and very 
carefully thought out my plans. 

First, at the next dinner I gave, I told my guests 
(who were, as usual, among the chief men of the city) 
that I proposed a deal in corn with the factors of 
Tambulistan : the place did not, as a fact, exist, but 
the name was well chosen and attractive. They 
were distant (I said) but in correspondence with me ; 
and as they had a glut and I had news of a dearth in 
my own country I had taken the opportunity of a 
deal through third parties. I saw a profit of some 
100 pieces of gold. Not more (said I). I was a modest 
man and only did business in a small way. My guests 
gallantly denied this and smiled in polite interest, but 
no more, till, a little later in the meal, I said that the 
transaction had been just a little heavy for me and 
that I had looked round for some one who would help 
in settlement and would share the profit. I told them 
this profit was fairly certain, that no ready cash was 
required more than I had myself provided, but that, 
as a bill or two would do no harm, I had obtained one 
from a friend at home. All this in the way of general 

" As might be expected, the Chief Magistrate of the 
town (my most honoured guest) approached me after 
dinner and told me privately that he would be happy 
to oblige. I told him there was no sort of necessity, 
I could draw what I would on my letters from home, or 
at any rate enough to meet the case. That if he 


really cared to share my little adventure I expected 
about ten per cent, profit on the sum engaged but 
indeed it was too small for me to trouble him with it. 
I accepted his pledge of 100 pieces of gold but I 
stoutly refused any paper. Your name is enough/ 
I said, I shall gratefully use it. My people will trust 
my word/ 

" I gave out next morning that I was going into the 
hills to meet a messenger. I did indeed pass through 
the city gate and proceeded till I was well out of sight ; 
but as there was no sense in fatiguing myself I slept 
through the heat in a wood, watched through the warm 
night, and returned travel-stained in the evening of 
the second day. 

On the morning of the third day I met the Chief 
Magistrate in the Bazaar : I stopped him, chatted, 
and then and there paid him eleven pieces of gold. 
I met my messenger from Tambulistan (said I) we 
exchanged parcels, and I find I have netted just over 
the ten per cent. These eleven pieces are your propor 
tion upon your kind investment of 100. He protested 
of course that it had been no investment, merely a few 
friendly words of support ; but he took the money, 
and I could see that he was pleased. He was curiously 
pleased. Indeed, he was so pleased that, though a 
discreet man, he could not forbear mentioning the mat 
ter to his wife. Rich men love small windfalls. 

[ In a few hours, therefore, the Head Mufti, the Chief 
of the Guard, and two very important councillors had 
in their various ways touched casually upon the wheat 
trade during short conversations in which each had 
separately engaged me under the shades of the Bazaar. 
A little later, as I took the air by the riverside at 
evening, the principal Ascetic of the district, who had 


come in to buy his few lentils for the week, spoke to 
me briefly of the same matter. I gave each of them 
a different answer, alluding to various cargoes of wheat, 
caravans of wheat and tumbrils of wheat all in tech 
nical terms ; to risks, to covering sums, to transfers 
from one district to another. In each case I refused 
anything but a pledge to stand in with a transaction 
somewhat beyond my unaided powers ; in each case 
I ridiculed the smallness of the little adventure ; in 
each case I paid, after the lapse of a few days, to one 
a single piece of gold as his profit, to another two, to 
another three. And each was very pleased. 

" As the days went by I varied the procedure. Some 
times I regretted the unexpectedly small profit obtained. 
Once I deliberately announced a loss and sternly 
gathered reluctant contributions from my associates ; 
but immediately afterwards I did another fine stroke 
in imaginary wheat and paid a fat dividend to my 
friends indeed, that particular affair cost me twenty- 
five pieces. But it was worth it. I got rid in less 
than a month of 200 pieces of gold in this fashion. 
It was a cruel trial, but proved, in the event, most 
fruitful. For though I would never advise in large 
investments, yet by this simple method my reputation 
for judgment in that which men most value which is 
money was assured. 

" I had set 250 pieces aside for this experiment, 
and my total stock was running low when I steered 
my ship to port. 

" First, out of my remainder, I brought to the city 
council fifty pieces of gold saying that I had with 
difficulty screwed them from my young friend, who 
was still digging away in the outskirts, but that he 
had faithfully promised the second fifty in two months 


time. Next I created a sort of stupor in the now large 
circle of my friends by saying publicly and boldly that 
I was beginning to see something in this plan of drain 
ing the marsh. I reminded them that the Engineer 
had always been my friend, that I had always seen 
something in him, that in spite of his obvious lack of 
business sense I could not help admiring his talent in 
his own line. 

The place was by this time dried and levelled, 
the embankment was all fairly sloped and paved, the 
cuttings, heaps, and rubbish had disappeared. Then 
it was that I took a party of these my important friends 
out to view the place at evening from the city walls 
and quietly told them that it was mine. 

There it lay before them : a magnificent plain, 
reclaimed and ordered, firm land pegged out in rows 
and with neat placards of new streets, all named. 

You know, my dear nephews, the admiration 
excited in all men of affairs for one who has forestalled 
them. I rose in the estimation of my neighbours to 
a height beyond compare. They already had a most 
deep reverence for my keen perceptions in commerce 
which had been proved in so many little tips 
insignificant in quantity, but, oh ! so universally 
accurate. Now, indeed, upon learning this great stroke 
(or, as they called it in the local language, Koo ) 
they were lost in surprise and respect. 

After sunset I counted my money. I had left pre 
cisely fifty pieces of gold : a close aim, a narrow edge 
of venture. But, as the proverb says, The bold 
hunter slays the lion, the timid is slain of the cub. 

It was late in that same night that the Chief 
Magistrate knocked at my door with the greatest 
precaution, bearing a hooded lantern, and walking on 


tiptoe. He begged me as an old friend (but in a 
whisper) to sell him so much land in the new quarter 
as might suffice for a good house and garden, suitable 
for his son or even for himself. I told him that I would 
have no sordid dealings with so excellent a friend. 
I could not do less than give him such a site. 

I brought out a plan (on which the Engineer had 
already drawn out streets and public squares) and 
marked upon the main thoroughfare the plot I would 
assign to him. He departed with praise and blessings. 
Hardly had he gone when a yet more furtive step 
approached my door. It was the Mufti. He offered 
me a hundred pieces of gold for such a site. I gener 
ously gave him for fifty a larger one than he had 
ventured to beg. I marked it somewhat farther down 
the same main thoroughfare. He went away belauding 
my name and soul. 

" It was near midnight when another footfall halted 
at my door : a councillor s. For fifty pieces he also 
had a site worth double, and in the same street. He 
had not gone an hour, it was the darkest of the night, 
when a much fainter shuffling of bare feet could be 
just perceived followed by a light trying of the latch. 
The door was opened a crack and the strong emaciated 
face of the Ascetic twisted round the edge and peered 
in. I beckoned him. He put his finger to his lips, 
cautiously secured the fastening of the lock and 
then, bending forward, whispered in my ear. ... I 
was a little surprised at the magnitude of his offer, but 
of course I accepted it at once. Such men have great 
influence with the faithful. He proposed to let his 
property or perhaps to hold for a rise. He would 
continue of course to live in his humble cell outside 
the city, in the wastes. He departed quickly and like 


a ghost. At dawn came yet another councillor, more 
bold than the rest, who made a plain business proposi 
tion for block fifty- three and was at once gratified. 

So for days the procession continued, each man 
coming singly and watching whether he were observed. 
Half the council had sites for little or nothing, and 
the other half had sites at rates really very reason 

And all the while, to the mass of buyers who 
importuned me and clamoured about me, I said that 
only very limited sales could be made, and those of 
leases only, and even so not till a later date. 

Meanwhile the whole town council was converted. 
The councillors had quite lost their old aversion to 
the scheme. They earmarked enthusiastically and 
by a unanimous vote a special tax for the laying out 
of the new quarter, its planting with trees, the bringing 
of conduits to it so that fountains of sweet water might 
appear in private houses and in public places, and, 
though the levy was no light one, it was paid cheer 
fully enough by all the councillors, who were now 
curiously proud of their town s aggrandizement ; even 
among the mass of poor ratepayers there were no 
executions, but only one mild case of torture, and 
perhaps a dozen bastinadoes. 

The public money so spent was very well worth 
while. The improvement in my property was immense ; 
and when a fine road, bordered with trees, was laid 
down all along the embankment I obtained very heavy 
compensation from the city for the use of the ground 
and the cutting off of my approaches to the river. 

I, on my side, was not niggardly. I promised 
100 gold pieces to the building of a new mosque in 
the centre of the place, on condition that ninety-nine 


others should do the same, and I started a hall of public 
recreation, the price of admission to which barely 
repaid the expenses of upkeep and cleaning, taxes, 
heat and light, interest on debentures (which I had 
myself very handsomely subscribed), service, literature, 
and secretarial expenses, decoration, approaches, annual 
depreciation, and at the most a profit of six to eight 
per cent. I also provided kitchens where the poorer 
citizens could purchase food at very little more than 
its value. These were of great service to the police, 
who had here a central place whence the movements of 
my less fortunate neighbours could be traced. I 
presented also public fountains with solid pewter 
mugs, attached to the stonework by strong chains lest 
they should be stolen, and I even went so far as to 
provide, free of all cost, public plans of the new quarter 
showing v/here unleased sites still remained and the 
terms on which they might be acquired. 

" I made it a rule that any man building a house 
on my land should promise to give it up to me for 
nothing after twenty years ; but as many people 
were too poor to build their own houses I established 
a fund whence they could borrow the money at the 
ordinary rates of interest and the few dues, fees, deduc 
tions, etc., inevitable to such transactions. In every 
way did I develop and benefit this my creation of a 
new town. 

" I had my reward in the profound respect and 
honour paid me by my fellow-citizens. These were 
convened by the Council at an appropriate date to 
decide what recognition should be made of my services. 
They finally agreed, after long discussion and many 
very eloquent discourses, upon an illuminated parch 
ment, which was presented to me with the most flatter- 


ing cheers and songs upon the public square of the new 
quarter, in a tent of purple silk specially voted for 
the occasion and later claimed as a perquisite by my 

" I replied in a suitable manner to the acclamations 
of the crowd and the kindly flattery of the councillors ; 
but I told them, at the end of my address, that I 
should feel ungrateful indeed if, upon such an occasion, 
a certain humble fellow-worker of mine were overlooked 
in the public rejoicings. Thereupon I extended my 
hand to the Enthusiast, that young Engineer of Parts 
whom I had so fortunately met some months before 
and whom I had arranged should be near the steps of 
my dais at the required moment. I handed him up. 
I smiled benignantly upon him as he blushed with 
happy shame and pleasure. I even set him at my 

" It is all very well, my friends/ said I, as I con 
cluded my little speech, to speak as you do of the 
foresight and business acumen, organizing power, 
and the rest of it, which I hope justly you ascribe 
to me when you tell me how, as with a magic wand, 
I raised all this new city from the marsh which pre 
ceded it. But what would such gifts be had they not 
been aided and supplemented by talents no less essen 
tial, such as those which we all admire in this young 
friend at my right ? He it is who has performed, 
sometimes in a very literal sense, the spade-work. 
His has been the hard, obscure, constant labour and 
vigilance, without which my own more conspicuous 
efforts would have been in vain ! 

After a few subdued cheers from the assembly, 
most of whom had never heard of the young man, 
while the rest had forgotten him, all dispersed, and. 


I was free to seek repose in my own new and sumptuous 

I am glad to say that this public mention of my 
worthy young colleague was not all I did for him. As 
the agreed salary which I paid him by our contract 
would now soon expire, I arranged with the Council that 
he should have a permanent post as keeper of the public 
squares, at a wage more than double that of the gar 
deners, and be granted (on condition of good beha 
viour) a limited pension when he should reach his 
seventieth year, the same to be deducted in small 
weekly sums from his pay : which sums, as he was not 
yet thirty-two would accumulate to much more than 
was necessary and leave over and above his retiring 
stipend a balance for anything the Council might 
think useful. He was also lent, rent free, a small 
four-roomed house with a nice strip of front garden 
and a wooden shed at the side. His duties occupied 
him from a little before sunrise to the pleasant dusk 
of eve, with an hour off for meals and a fortnight s 
holiday in the autumn. 

Even his little sister was not forgotten. I obtained 
for her, from my friends among the religious authori 
ties (notably the Mufti, who was most strenuous in 
her cause) the post of head cleaner at the new mosque. 
Her salary there was necessarily somewhat smaller 
than her brother s, nor had she any holidays, while 
her hours were a trifle longer. But, on the other hand, 
she had no responsibilities. 

Shortly after all this I determined to sell my 
holding in this new property and to betake myself 
to other mercantile adventures in further lands. I 
had been in this place more than a year. I had 
made very good friends. It was the scene of a success 


greater than any I had yet experienced. Neverthe 
less I felt I could remain there no longer. The 
field was too small for my expanding opportunities. 
There was nothing left to take. 

" I announced, therefore, my intention to realize, 
and allowed a certain interval for a public decision 
upon the purchase of my land, and leases, and other 

" A curious discussion arose. One party, composed 
mainly of wealthy but intelligent young men, of univer 
sity professors and of jail-birds, were insistent that 
the Town Council should buy all my land and the city 
possess it for the future ; for it was obviously wrong 
(they agreed) that improvements in land and houses 
should go to private individuals. The other party, 
which was made up almost entirely of builders and 
auctioneers, furiously opposed this scheme which (they 
said) struck at the roots of all morals and family life. 
These stoutly maintained that, in the natural scheme 
of Providence, all should be parcelled out among the 
highest bidders. 

For my part I was, like the great mass of the 
taxpayers, indifferent to either argument. All that 
interested me was the obvious fact that in the compe 
tition between these two groups on the Council the 
value of my property necessarily rose. 

At last the first party prevailed, the city bought 

me out (really a most interesting social experiment !), 

and I received the sum of two million pieces of gold." 

Two million pieces ! shouted the astonished 

little nephews in chorus. 

My children," said the old man with a kindly 
smile, ( to you, coming as you do from such a home 
as that of your father, my dear brother, the sum must 


seem fabulous, though to me to-day it sounds moderate 
enough. Nevertheless, you are right. From that 
moment I count the great change in my life and the 
confirmation of that Divine Mercy which had always 
watched me hitherto, as I now know, but which hence 
forward was gloriously present in every act of my life. 

Before the day when I first saw that river and 
that town, first met the enthusiastic young Engineer, 
first formed my decisive plan, I had been a man subject 
to grave anxieties and sufferings ; now precariously 
affluent, now starving ; now again doubtfully possessed 
of some fleeting money. Then came the marvellous 
year I have just recited. Since then I have enjoyed 
the results of so much persistence and skill. I have 
gathered and enjoyed without cease the fruits of great 
and increasing wealth." 

Oh, uncle, what are these ? 

They are," said the good old merchant in grave 
and reverent tones, the honour of neighbours, the 
devotion of friends, the admiration of all mankind, a 
permanent self-respect, and what is more important 
than them all the Strong Peace of the Soul." 

The intolerable howl of the Muezzin checked his 
nephews reply, and they, their happy eyes shining 
as though they themselves were the recipients of these 
seven figures went home in a dream of gold. 

iJ \ 



That is : 




ON the appointed day of the next week the little 
boys were glad to observe that the number 
of public executions had fallen so far below the average 
that their uncle s entertainment of them could begin 
quite half an hour before the usual time. They were 
most eager to discover what further good fortune had 
befallen him by the Mercy of Allah. 

The amiable old man opened his mouth and spoke : 

Two million gold pieces is a respectable sum of 
money. It weighs about thirty tons . . . yes," he 
calculated rapidly on his bejewelled fingers, " about 
thirty tons. The city could just produce it after 
scouring the country for miles around, searching all 
the more modest houses and melting down sundry 
antique lamps, wedding rings, sacred shrines and 
other gewgaws. 

The complete withdrawal of so much metal left 
them a little embarrassed for coin in everyday affairs, 
but really that was not my business. I packed a 
hundred strong iron chests with the bullion, reserving 
a few thousands in a leather bag, set them in carts, 
added to my retinue a hundred armed men, marked 
my cases plainly in large white letters SAND CONSIGNED 
TO THE SULTAN, and had all made ready to set out : 
but whither ? 

273 T 


" Until a man s wealth has grown so great that he 
can command the whole state, he is always in some 
peril. He is envied and a target for vile taxes nay 
for confiscation. ... I had not forgotten the dreadful 
lesson of the island ! I pondered on what I had read 
of various regions, and had rejected each in turn as 
dangerous, when I heard by chance a man saying to 
his neighbour (with whom he was quarrelling) , Remem 
ber ! This is not the country of Dirak where there 
is one law for the rich and another for the poor/ 
As you may well believe I deeply considered these 
random words, and within an hour I was giving an 
excellent meal to a Learned Man who taught in the 
University, famous for his knowledge of foreign 
constitutions. I spoke of the Franks, of the Maghreb, 
of Rome. On all he was most interesting and full : 
he spoke also with contempt of certain wild tribes in 
the hills who have a strange custom of choosing a 
retired Chief annually from among the less wealthy 
members, under the barbarous error that modest 
means conduce to honesty and sharpen judgment. 

" As in Dirak, said I casually. 

" In Dirak ? he exclaimed astonished. Why ! 
Who can have told you such tales ? Dirak is the best 
administered, the most flourishing and the strongest 
of all states ! 

" No doubt, I answered, but what has that to do 
with it ? 

" Why, said he, in sudden anger (for this kind of 
learned man is commonly half-mad) it has everything 
to do with it ! Such advantages can only come from 
the secure rule of the rich. ... A fool could see 
that ! 

" I soothed him by immediate agreement, professed 


my admiration at his vast store of knowledge and 
pumped him all that afternoon on Dirak. 

" It seemed that in this admirable region the Rich 
rule unquestioned to the immense profit of the State. 
The Sultan is kept on a strict allowance that he may 
be the puppet of the great merchants, bankers and 
landholders who are the masters of the Commonwealth 
and him. The middle classes are allowed a livelihood 
but no possessions, and are proud of their small incomes, 
which usually put them above the artizans ; while 
the populace are content to swarm in hovels under 
ground, to work hard all day and all the year round 
for a little food and to revere and acclaim the rich 
with frenzied cheers upon all public occasions. Laws 
and proclamations are purchased, and their adminis 
tration is in the hands of the rich, of whom a 
select few sit upon the bench and condemn a fixed 
number of the populace, and a few of the middle classes, 
to imprisonment every year by way of discipline and 
example. No man possessing more than a hundred 
thousand gold pieces worth of land or stock can be 
punished, and if a poor man tell any unpleasing thing 
of such a one he is beaten till he admits his falsehood 
or, if he prove obstinate, slowly starved to death. 

It is a model State. All is in perfect order. 
The palaces of the rulers are the most magnificent 
in the world : all public office is faithfully and punctu 
ally performed. It is the envy of every neighbour, 
the pride and delight of every citizen however mean ; 
forwhat is the basis of the whole affair every man 
in Dirak is esteemed by the extent of his possessions 
alone ; writing and music and work in metals and 
painted tiles are esteemed for the pretty things they 
are : holiness is revered indeed, but confined to the 


well-to-do ; and a man s virtue, judgment and wit are 
rightly gauged by his property. 

My many adventures had somewhat blunted me to 
new sensations. But I confess (my dear nephews) 
that as I heard this tale an ecstasy filled my soul. 
I masked my emotions and simply said, An interesting 
place ! J 

It is reached by a plain road from here/ volun 
teered the Learned Man, though at the expense of a 
long journey : for it takes a caravan quite a month to 
reach the capital of Dirak from this place. You go 
up the river to its source in the hills, a week s travel 
to the east ; then the well marked road leads you over 
a pass to a most singular cup or natural cauldron, 
with a flat, highly cultivated floor, formerly the bed 
of a lake and surrounded on all sides by precipitous 
limestone cliffs, down which the road descends by 
artificial cuttings in their surface. This strangely 
isolated spot, famous for its gardens and simple 
happiness, is called with its chief village Skandir, and 
strangers are there most hospitably entertained. 

The only issue thence, on the far side, is by a 
narrow gorge leading through the mountains, beyond 
which again are vast plains of grassy lands, the 
grazing place of nomads : well watered and pro 
visioned at reasonable distances by simple but well 
furnished villages. The great road goes through all 
these, still eastward. 

" These prairies get drier and drier as they rise 
eastward until, for the last day of your progress, at 
the wells of Ayn-ayoum you must take a supply of 
water, for the next twenty-four hours are desert. You 
reach a crest of the slow ascent and see below you from 
the summit of the road some half a day s going across 


the plain below, the magnificent capital of Dirak. 

" This noble city, whose name is Mawazan, was 
founded by the enormously wealthy- 

" Yes ! Yes ! I interrupted in a bored tone 
for I now knew all I wanted to know, some day I 
must go there. A very amusing journey no doubt. 
But meanwhile business is business and I must start 
very early for the north to-morrow morning to look 
after some purchases I have made in grains ; and I 
must not waste any more of your time. 

" The learned are slow to take a hint, so I locked 
my arm in his after a friendly fashion and led him 
genially to the door, where he tried (unsuccessfully) 
to detain me for further remarks on yet another country 
famous for its enormous bats. 

" When I had got well rid of him it was already 
dark I beat up my quarters without delay, aligned 
my caravan, added to the inscription on my iron 
treasure chests the words of Dirak (so that the labels 
now ran SAND FOR THE SULTAN OF DIRAK), marshalled 
my armed troop and set out in the night by the northern 
road. But, long before daybreak, I ordered a deflection 
to the right, struck the great road along the river and 
so proceeded eastward into the hills. 

" It was as the Learned Man had said : a week s 
marching to the sources of the stream led to the pass, 
and we saw below us at evening a splendid spectacle : 
that small oval plain of Skandir all girded with enor 
mous precipices, a garden of fruit trees and grain with 
great prosperous villages in its midst, and the road 
picking its way by cuttings in the living rock down to 
the valley floor, and thence making straight for the 
main town. 

" We reached it under a new moon in the second 


hour of darkness. Its hospitality had not been exag 
gerated. The good peasants received us with every 
kindness and I was lodged in a most comfortable 
house, my chests and grain in the courtyard and my 
numerous retinue under lesser roofs around. 

Next day as luck would have it a wretched 
accident befel me ! I was taking the air at the door 
of my house, preparatory to ordering the start of my 
caravan, when I heard the ring of metal on the flat 
stones of the street. A child running past had dropped 
a small silver coin. I marked the gleaming spot as 
the child ran on unheeding, and naturally rushed to 
put my foot on it before it should be noticed by any 
other, intending to stoop gracefully at my leisure and 
pick it up when the coast was clear. But the Evil 
One, who is ever on the watch to undo the servants of 
the Most High caused me, in my eagerness, to slip 
upon a greasy piece of mud and I fell heavily upon the 
stones with a crash. My leg was broken ! 

1 In the agony I suffered I quite forgot the silver 
coin (the void still aches) ; I know not who acquired 
it. I cannot bear to think that it was trampled in and 
lost to the world. 

At any rate, I was carried to my couch half 
fainting, the bone was set with excruciating pain, 
and I lay for many days unable to rise and eating my 
heart out at the added expense of my large company 
which was dipping deeply into my store of loose coin. 
" My main treasure, stored in the hundred iron 
boxes, I dared not touch ; for the Chief of Skandir 
(who daily visited my sick-room) told me that he had 
affixed seals to the sand consigned to the Sultan of 
Dirak, his powerful neighbour, and taken it for safe 
keeping into his castle. 


" The physician assured me that even when I might 
venture out on crutches it would be fatal, in view of 
certain complications which had arisen, if I were to 
think of travel. 

" So there I was, imprisoned in this charming valley, 
with no chance of commerce, my spare cash danger 
ously dwindling, and a most expensive three weeks 
journey ahead of me before I could reach my beloved 
Dirak ! 

What was I to do ? 

My dear nephews, you will hear many harsh 
things said of those who prosper as I have done. They 
are vilified through a base envy and the most monstrous 
tales are told of them. But they are under the protec 
tion of Heaven, and that Guiding Power supplements 
their humble vows. None can deny their ready 
response to Inspiration. Hear what I did. 

First I purchased out of my remaining free gold 
a fine house that happened to be empty. Next I 
had painted on its front in beautiful and varied 
colours MAHMOUD S BANK/ Next I told the Chief 
what advantage I designed for him and his during my 
enforced stay, by way of repaying him for their 
exceptional kindness. Next I sent out written letters 
to all the wealthier men (and women, my dear nephews, 
and women], saying that I had begun operations in 
the buying and selling of market produce and that any 
capital entrusted to me would earn, for every hundred 
pieces, one piece a week, paid punctually at a certain 
hour. To give colour to my scheme I sent my quickest- 
witted servant (amply rewarded) to watch the markets 
in the valley, to buy up fruit and grain at magnificent 
prices and to sell elsewhere as best he could. 

Never mind/ said I to him, benevolently, at 


what loss you sell. I desire to do these honest people 
a service. 

The volume of my commerce grew (at a heavy 
charge !) and even the timid thought there might be 
something in it. I started the ball rolling by getting 
my confidant to deposit a hundred pieces of gold, which 
I had privily furnished. At the end of the week I 
duly gave him back one hundred and one in the 
presence of many ; and the story went abroad. 

.Soon the Chief, his uncle and his mother-in-law 
deposited and were as regularly paid one per cent 
a week. The thing began to buzz but I watched 
narrowly my dwindling hoard : it was a close thing ! 
. . . When I had progressed in this fashion for what 
I considered a sufficient time, I judged it opportune to 
initiate my new Policy of An Expansion of Exchange 
through Instruments of Credit." 
" Dear uncle interrupted the eldest nephew. 

Yes, yes," said the merchant, impatiently, " I 
know that the term is new to you, but you will shortly 
learn its meaning. When I had occasion to buy articles 
for my private consumption or to make an exceptionally 
heavy purchase of my wholesale wares, I would fre 
quently affect embarrassment, and approaching the 
vendor I would beg him to accept, in lieu of immediate 
payment in cash, a note which I had signed promising 
payment in gold at sight, For/ said I to him, in the 
rapid turnover of my business it is but a matter of a 
few hours for me to be again in possession of a consider 
able sum of ready money. 

" I went to work at first with caution. I never by 
any chance issued a single note for more than ten 
pieces, and whenever any one of these notes was pre 
sented for payment, even though that event should 


take place within an hour of my issuing it, I promptly 
honoured it from the reserve of metal which I had 
kept back for the furtherance of my plan. I was care 
ful to make these notes identical, to stamp them all in 
the same place with my metal seal, and in every way 
to make them, so far as I could, a sort of currency, 
which, as you may imagine, they promptly became. 
When a man carrying one of these instruments might 
find himself called upon to pay, at some distance from 
my place of business, he would at first tentatively 
offer my note (perhaps at a small discount) to his 
creditor. But as my integrity was by this time a 
proverb (and never forget, dear boys, that integrity 
is the soul of business) the Notes were more and more 
readily accepted as time proceeded. 

The convenience of carrying such paper compared 
with the heavy weight of metal they might represent, 
the ease of negotiation, and so forth, rapidly increased 
their circulation ; and in a short time I was able to 
calculate with assurance what the experts in this 
amiable science term the Rate of Circulation which 
my notes had attained. I found that, roughly 
speaking, for every five pieces to which I had thus 
pledged myself upon paper two were sufficient to meet 
the claims of those who presented them at any one 
moment. And this proportion is known to this day 
in that happy valley as the Proportion of Metallic 
Reserve which must lie behind any Issue of Notes 
but I hear that since my departure they have got 
badly muddled. 

Oh ! dear, dear ! " said the eldest nephew. " I am 
getting muddled myself, Uncle." 

Don t listen to him ! said his brothers in 


Yes ! my children," answered the old man vividly, 

it is indeed a difficult subject. Only a few experts 

really understand it ... and I am one . . . anyhow, 

you all see that I could now make new money as I chose 

out of nothing ? 

Oh ! yes, uncle ! they all agreed, including 
the eldest. " We quite see that ! " 

Well," said their revered relative in a subdued 
tone, " that is a great advantage." But to proceed. 

After some weeks of these practices I found myself 
the master of the fruit and grain markets, to which 
I added certain adjuncts naturally suggested by it, 
such as catering for public meals, the erection of 
mosques, the undertaking of marriages, funerals, and 
divorces, the display of fireworks, and the charging 
of fixed fees for the telling of fortunes. This last soon 
became a very flourishing branch of my business. 
I employed in it at the customary wage a number of 
expert soothsayers, and these, with the rest of my staff, 
amounted to perhaps a quarter of the inhabitants ; nor 
were they the least contented or the least prosperous 
of the population. 

" In a word, my dear nephews, when my operations 
were concluded I found myself in possession of 200,000 
pieces of gold, while my notes, which were everywhere 
received throughout the State, stood for 300,000 more. 
A simple calculation," said the worthy old man, 
smiling, will show you that my total new fortune 
was now no less than half a million pieces, when 
signs of economic exhaustion in the public and the 
complete healing of my leg reluctantly decided me 
that the time had come to seek fresh fields of effort 
and other undeveloped lands." 

As the merchant now puffed at his pipe in silence 


the fifth nephew begged leave to ask him two questions 
which had perplexed his youthful mind. 

" Ask away, my little fellow," said his uncle, kindly, 
" and I will attempt to explain any difficulty you 
have in simple terms suited to your age." 

" Well, uncle," said the fifth nephew, humbly, 

I cannot in the first place see how the 300,000 pieces 

of which you speak, and which as you say were 

represented by notes alone, constituted any real 


My dear little chap," answered his uncle, leaning 
forward to pat him upon the head, you will have the 
intelligence to perceive that wherever such a note 
existed people thought of it as ten golden pieces, did 
they not ? " 

" Ye-s-s," answered his nephew, feeling that he was 
getting cornered. 

Very well," continued the old man, merrily, 
this attitude of mind being common to the whole 
community, and all having come to regard these pieces 
of paper as so much money, I had but to receive them 
in payment of my debts and then to buy with them 
the gold of others. Thus all the gold entered my pos 
session. Eh ? On my departure the outstanding 
notes were presented to the firm, I hear, and there 
was then no gold to meet them with. A sad state of 
affairs ! Many clamoured and all sorts of trouble 
arose. But by that time I was far away." 

The little chap still looked puzzled. " But, uncle," 
he said," when the people presented the notes after 
you had gone, they may have thought they had wealth, 
but they hadn t any, had they ? 

I don t know," said the old man, after a pause. 

It is a most difficult point in the discussion of 


currency. ... I, at any rate, had been bold in the 
story I told, and got hold of their gold." 

But the wealth wasn t there, uncle," persisted the 
little boy. " It wasn t there at all ! " 

The merchant with a benign air replied : " The 
science of political economy is abstruse enough for 
the most aged and experienced, and it will be impossible 
for me to explain to you at length so intricate a point. 
Let it suffice for you that so far as / was concerned the 
wealth was there, it was there in fifty large leather bags. 
. . . You had, I think," he added in a severer tone, 
a second question to propound ? 

" Yes," said his nephew with a slight sigh, " dear 
uncle, it was this : Why under such favourable 
circumstances did you think it necessary to leave 
so early, seeing that your new trade was going so 
well ? " 

" That," said old Mahmoud in a tone of relief, " is 
much more easy to answer. My leg was healed. The 
resources of Skandir were limited. Signs were apparent 
that the worthy populace, though unable to unravel 
the precise nature of their entanglement, were already 
very seriously hampered by my operations. Though 
I was able to prove by statistics that prosperity had 
increased by leaps and bounds, and though the Chief, 
who was now my partner, kindly printed pamphlets 
at the public expense to prove the same, numbers who 
had formerly been well fed were now reduced to a few 
handfuls of raw grain, the jails were crammed, much 
of the land was going^ out of cultivation, and what 
between the ignorant passions which such periods of 
transition arouse in the vulgar, and the inability to get 
more water out of a sponge when you have already 
squeezed it thoroughly dry, I am sure that I was right 


in the determination I then took to retire from this 
field of operations. 

" Before leaving I offered my business for sale to 
the public in general. The shares, I am glad to say, 
were eagerly taken up. And as I gave a preference 
in allotment (another technical term) to those who paid 
in my own notes, I recovered all of these save an 
insignificant fraction, and was able to negotiate them 
again for gold in public exchange before my departure. 

" Meanwhile the unscrupulous anxiety of the chaotic 
multitude to share in so prosperous a commercial 
undertaking as mine had been, permitted me to ask 
for my business more than four (but less than five) 
times the sum which I would myself have been content 
to pay for it. 

" I loaded 300 more camels with valuables of various 
sorts, including nearly all the precious metals dis 
coverable in the State ; I purchased a whole army 
of new slaves for the conduct of the caravan (paying 
for them in new notes issued upon the new company), 
and amid the plaudits and benedictions of a vast 
multitude, many of whom (I regret to say) were now 
in the last stages of destitution, I regretfully took my 
way through the gorge and bade farewell to the simple 
people of lovely and lonely Skandir to whom I owed 

so much." 

* * * * * 

1 I proceeded from the people of the valley whom I 
had introduced to banking, and went out through the 
gorge into the rising prairies beyond the mountains. 
For at least four days march beyond the valley my 
name was a household word to the villages through 
which I passed ; not only was I able to pay for all 
goods by a further Issue of Notes, but I would even 


reward any special considerations shown me by 
selling to the grateful inhabitants for cash such shares 
in my old Firm remaining at Skandir as I had retained 
to amuse me in my travel ; and these, I am happy to 
say, went rapidly to a premium. These shares passed 
at gradually lessening prices from hand to hand, and 
I subsequently learnt that in a few months they had 
become unsaleable. Those who suffered in the last 
purchases had only themselves to blame, and indeed 
did not think of blaming any other, while the first 
to sell at a high price still hold my name in reverent 

" When I had proceeded a few days further upon my 
travels I found that the enlightenment and civiliza 
tion to which I had led the people of the valley was 
gradually dissipated, and within a fortnight I discovered 
myself amid the very brutish nomad population who 
absolutely refused to take paper in the place of cash, 
even when this form of payment was offered by my 
own body servants. On the other hand, the precious 
metals were so scarce amid that population that prices 
were extremely low, and I was able at a very small 
outlay in gold to feed the whole of my considerable 

" Three weeks so passed in these monotonous grass 
lands among the noma,d tribes, the road went forward 
to the east, rising all the way, and the soil grew drier 
and drier. We reached the wells of Ayn-Ayoub and 
filled our skins with water, we traversed the desert 
belt and camped near the summit : at daybreak we 
came to the escarpment and saw the wooded slopes 
falling away in cascading forests at our feet to where, 
far below, lay the splendid plain of Dirak and in its 
midst, far off and dark in outline against the burning 


dawn, the battlements and mosques, the minarets 
and tapering cypress points of its capital Misawan. 

" What joy was mine to fall by gentle gradations 
down the declivities of those noble woods into the 
warm fields of the Fortunate State ! At every hour 
of my advance new delights met my eye ! Great 
Country Houses standing in magnificent parks with 
carefully tended lawns all about, poor men who 
saluted low as I passed and rich men here and there 
who glanced a moment in haughty ease, fine horses 
passing at the trot mounted by subservient grooms, 
and, continually, posts bearing such notices as Any 
one treading on this Lord s ground will be bowstrung. 
No spitting. One insolent word and to jail with 
you ! : While at every few hundred yards an armed 
man, before whom the poorer people cowered, would 
frown at the slaves at the head of my column, and then, 
seeing my finely mounted guard and my own immutable 
face and shining garments coming up behind them, 
would smile and bow and hint at a few small coins- 
which I gave. 

In truth the Learned Man had not deceived me ! 
This land of Dirak was a Paradise ! 

" I rode into the city like a king (as I was for my 
wealth made me one in such a State) and took for the 
night a lodging in an Immense Building, which called 
itself a Caravanserai, but was, to the Caravanserais 
of my experience, as the Sultan s Palace to a horse. 
There, in an apartment of alabaster and beaten 
silver, I eat such viands as I had not thought to be 
on this earth, while well-drilled slaves, trained by long 
starvation to obedience, moved noiselessly in and out 
or played soft music hidden behind a carven screen. 

" Oh ! Dirak ! Dirak ! but I must conclude. 


. . . The matter was not long. With my gold I 
purchased my palace in the midst of this city of Misa- 
wan, entertained guests who asked nothing of my 
origin, bought (after a careful survey of prices) the 
excellent post of Chief Sweeper to his Majesty (which 
carried with it the conduct of The Treasury) and paid 
for a few laws which happened to suit my convenience, 
such as one to prevent street cries and another for 
the strangling of the red-headed poor : it is a colour 
of hair I cannot abide. 

From time to time I paid my respects to that 
puppet called the Sultan and bowed low in the Cere 
monies of the Court. 

I had no occasion to hide my wealth since wealth 
was here immune and the criterion of honour. I 
displayed it openly. I boasted of its amount. I even 
exaggerated its total. I was, within two years, the 
Chief Man in the State. 

Yet (such is the heart of man !) I was not wholly 
satisfied. Of my vast fortune not a hundredth had 
been consumed. None the less I could not bear to 
let it lie idle. I was determined to do business once 
again ! By the Infinite Mercy of Allah the opportunity 
was vouchsafed. 

There lay on the confines of Dirak another State, 
called Har, very different. In this the Sultan 
was the wealthiest man in the community and a 
tyrant. Moreover it differed from Dirak in this im 
portant particular, that whereas in Dirak all office was 
obtained by purchase, in Har all office was obtained 
by inheritance, so that between the two lay the unend 
ing and violent quarrel between trickery and pride. 

One day I had been the greatest man in Dirak 
for already two years more the Sultan of Har, 


wickedly, insolently, and not having the fear of God 
before his eyes, demanded satisfaction of the Sultan of 
Dirak for a loss sustained at dice by his Grand 
Almoner s nephew at the hands of that Noble in Dirak 
called the Lord Persecutor of Games of Chance 
which are, in Dirak, strictly forbidden by law. 

" In vain did the Sultan of Dirak implore the aid of 
his Nobles : they assured him that none would dare 
attack his (and their) Omnipotent State. 

On the third day the Sultan of Dar crossed the 
frontier with one million, two hundred thousand and 
fifty-seven men, ninety-seven elephants, and two 
catapults. On the tenth he was but three days 
march from Masawan. 

" The unfortunate Sultan of Dirak, pressed by his 
enemy, was at his wit^ end for the ready money 
wherewith to conduct the war. He had already so 
severely taxed his poor that they were upon the 
point of rebellion, while the rich were much rather 
prepared to make terms with the enemy or to fly than 
to support his whim of honour, patriotism and the rest. 

Musing upon the opportunity thus afforded, and 
recognizing in it once more that overshadowing Mercy 
which had so marvellously aided my every step in life, 
I came into the street upon a horse and in my noblest 
garments. I was careful to throw largesse to the 
crowd, at an expense which I had previously noted 
in a little book (your father has, my dear nephews, 
trained you, I hope, to keep accounts ?), and riding 
up to the Palace I announced to the guard that I had 
come with important news for the Sultan and his 
Council. After certain formalities (which cost me, 
I regret to say, no less than fifteen dinars more than 
I had allowed for) I was shown into the presence of 



the Vizier, who begged me to despatch my business 
hurriedly as the Sultan was expecting at any moment 
news of an important action. I said with courtesy 
and firmness that my time was my own, that perhaps 
I had been mistaken in the news conveyed to me, but 
that the financial operations I was prepared to under 
take would demand a certain leisure before they could 
be completed. 

At the words financial operations the Vizier s 
manner wholly changed ; he was profuse in apologies, 
admitting a little shamefacedly that he had taken me 
for a soldier, a priest, a poet, or something of that 
sort, and that if he had had the least idea of my intent 
he would never have kept me waiting as he had unfor 
tunately done. He proceeded in a hurried and con 
ventional tone to discuss the weather, the latest scandal, 
and other matters of the sort, until at my own time I 
proposed to introduce the important subject. 

" This I did with becoming dignity. I informed him 
with the utmost reluctance that the enemy had already 
approached me for financial assistance. I would not 
be so hypocritical (I said) as to pretend that I had 
refused them, or indeed that I had any sentimental 
preference for one side or the other. As I thus ex 
pressed myself the Vizier constantly and gravely 
nodded, as who should say that he esteemed no man 
so much as one who showed himself indifferent to the 
feelings of the vulgar. I next asked of what sum the 
Government was in immediate need, and on hearing 
that it amounted to about a quarter of my total capital 
I put on a very grave look and said that I feared the 
immediate provision of so large an amount was hardly 
possible, in view of the poverty and embarrassment 
of his unhappy country. 


" When I rose as though to leave, the Vizier, in a 
state of the utmost excitement, implored me to recon 
sider so sudden a decision. He was prepared (he 
swore) to take but an instalment of the whole. Ready 
money was absolutely necessary. And if, with my 
profound knowledge of finance, I could devise some way 
of escape for his master, the most substantial proofs 
of gratitude would be afforded me. 

" Upon hearing this I professed to be plunged into 
profound thought for about a quarter of an hour, and 
ended by slowly laying before him as an original and 
masterly plan the following proposal : 

" The poor (he had admitted) were taxed beyond 
the limits of endurance, and were even upon the point 
of revolt ; the rich were hiding their hoards, and 
many forms of portable wealth were leaving the 
country. Let him abandon these uncouth and rapa 
cious methods of obtaining revenue, and ask the 
wealthier of the loving subjects of the Sovereign to 
lend him at interest what they would certainly refuse 
to pay him outright. In this way a smaller annual 
sum by far than was now raised to meet the exigencies 
of the war would suffice to meet the obligations of the 
Government. The capital so raised would r^e spent 
upon the campaign ; the charge imposed upon the 
people would, it is true, be perpetual ; but it would be 
so much smaller than the existing taxation as to be 
everywhere welcomed. 

The Vizier sadly responded that though he would 
be very happy to undertake such a course he feared 
that the wealthy inhabitants would never lend (know 
ing, as they did, the embarrassment of the Govern 
ment) save upon ruinous terms. 

I had been waiting for this confession, and I at 


once suggested that I could act as go-between. I 
would, said I, stand guarantor. My great wealth 
would at once restore opinion, the loan would certainly 
be taken up, and I should only make the nominal 
charge of five gold pieces every year for each hundred 
I had thus guaranteed. 

The Vizier was so astounded at my generosity that 
he almost fell backward, but recovering himself, he 
poured forth the most extravagant thanks, which 
were hardly marred by the look I detected in his eye, 
a look certainly betraying the belief that such an 
offer from a commercial man could hardly be made 
in good faith. To reassure him I adopted what is 
known in the financial world as the Seventh, or 
Frankly Simple, tone. I told him without reserve 
the total of my wealth (which I put at a fifth of its 
real amount) and promised to bring it in cash to offices 
which he should permit me to establish in the city. 
" Entering the next day with a million pieces of 
gold charged upon a train of very heavily laden camels, 
I set up my bank in the most crowded portion of the 
Bazaar, published news of my intention to support the 
Government, inviting the public inspection of the 
metal so lent, and at the same time proposing that 
any who desired regular interest of four pieces 
guaranteed by myself annually upon every hundred 
should come forward to take the loan off my hands. 
The hoards of gold still remaining in the country 
reappeared as though by magic so much more 
delightful is it to lend voluntarily at interest than to 
pay away under torture for ever and at last there 
applied at my office for the favour of extending a loan 
ten times as many citizens as the situation required. 
My terms with the Government were simple, 


and, I am sure, moderate. All that I asked was that 
the tax collectors should in future pay their receipts 
into my chest, from which I pledged myself to hand 
over to the Government whatever surplus there might 
be after I had paid to the lenders their annual interest, 
four pieces, and kept for myself a fifth piece, which 
formed my tiny and not unearned commission. 

In this way I rapidly repaid myself and also took 
one piece on every hundred others had subscribed. The 
learned men of the place, who had never before imagined 
so simple and practical a plan, treated me with almost 
supernatural reverence. I was consulted upon every 
operation of war, my guarantee was eagerly sought for 
in other financial ventures, and I was able, I am glad 
to say, to secure other commissions without touching 
a penny of my treasure I had but to hold it forth as a 
proof of good faith. 

The enemy was repelled. But victory was not 
won. The war dragged on for a year and there was no 
decision. Gold grew scarce, and again the Government 
was in despair. 

" I easily relieved them. Write/ I said, promises 
on paper to be repaid in gold/ They did as I advised 
paying me (at my request) a trifle of half a million 
for the advice. I handled the affair on a merely 
nominal profit. I punctually met for another year 
every note that was paid in. But too many were 
presented, for the war seemed unending and entered a 
third year. 

Then did I conceive yet another stupendous thing. 
Bid them/ said I to the Sultan, take the notes as 
money. Cease to repay. Write, not " I will on delivery 
of this paper pay a piece of gold," but, " this is a piece 
of gold. " 


He did as I told him. The next day the Vizier 
came to me with the story of an insolent fellow to 
whom fifty such notes had been offered as payment for 
a camel for the war and who had sent back, not a 
camel, but another piece of paper on which was 
written This is a camel. 

" Cut off his head ! said I. 

" It was done, and the warning sufficed. The 
paper was taken and the war proceeded. 

" It was I that prepared the notes, and on each batch 
I exacted my necessary commission, my little com 
mission, my due. 

" It was not in my nature, dear nephews, however, 
in those days of hard and honest work, to lie idle. 
When I had put the Sultan on his legs it occurred to 
me that the enemy s Government was also very probably 
in similar straits. I therefore visited the enemy s 
capital by a roundabout route, and concluded with the 
Vizier of that opulent but agitated State a similar 

" The war thus replenished at its sources raged with 
redoubled ardour, for ten more years, and. ..." 

" But, uncle," said the fourth nephew, who was an 
athlete and somewhat stupid, and who had heard of 
this double negotiation with round eyes, surely 
they must have both been very angry with you ! 

The excellent Mahmoud raised his left hand in 
protest. " Dear lad ! " cried he, f< how little you know 
the world ! Angry ? Why, each regarded me in the 
first place as a genius whose ways it was impossible 
to unravel, in the second place as a public necessity, 
in the third as a benefactor arrived at a miraculous 
moment ; and as for the fact that I was aiding both 
sides, I have only to tell you that among the people 


of that region it is thought the proper part of all 
financiers to act in this fashion. I should have been 
treated with deserved contempt had I betrayed any 
scruples upon so simple a matter. Nay, I am sure 
that either party reposed the greater trust in me from 
the fact that my operations were thus universal. . . . 
But to proceed : 

The Mercy of Allah was never more apparent in 
my career than in the way these two Sultans and their 
subjects fought like raging dogs upon the proceeds of 
those loans which the wealthy citizens upon either 
side had provided, and upon the mountains of paper 
which I spent half the day in signing. 

These loans increased ten, twenty, thirty-fold. 
It was always I that guaranteed them ; I had not to 
risk or expend one miserable dinar of my horde, and 
yet yearly my commission came rolling in, in larger 
and larger amounts, until at last the arduous but 
glorious campaigns were terminated in the total 
exhaustion of one of the two combatants (at this 
distance of time I forget which), and his territory and 
capital were laid under an enormous indemnity 
(which I again financed without the tedium of myself 
producing any actual metal of my own). As the 
beaten State might have repudiated its obligations 
I was careful to meet the patriotic clamours of the 
victorious populace, and to see that the territory of 
the vanquished should be annexed. You appreciate 
the situation, my dear fellow ? " said the aged Mahmoud 
conversationally to his eldest nephew. 

I think so, uncle," said the lad doubtfully, screwing 
up his face. 

It is quite simple," said the wealthy old man, 
clearing his throat. " The peoples of both States 


(now happily united) were taxed to their utmost 
capacity ; the one strong and united Government 
guaranteed a regular revenue ; a proportion of this 
revenue was annually distributed as a fixed income to 
the wealthy few who had subscribed my loans ; another 
portion, amounting by this time annually to consider 
ably more than my original capital, was retained in 
my coffers ; and the mechanism of this was the more 
simple from the fact that all the public revenues 
passed through my own hands as State Banker before 
any surplus was handed over to the Crown." 

The old man ceased. His benevolent lips were 
murmuring a prayer. 

At this moment the hideous call for prayer from the 
minaret would no longer be denied, and the seven 
boys, plunged in profound thought, retired slowly to 
the poverty-stricken home of the physician, their 
father. They found him tired out - with having sat 
up all night at the sick-bed of a howling dervish, who 
in his last dying whisper (and that a hoarse one), had 
confessed his total inability to pay the customary fee. 


That is: 





" \ T TE had arrived," said the excellent old merchant 

VV to his nephews when they were once more 
seated round him for the last of these entertaining rela 
tions. " We had arrived, my dear boys, in the story of 
my life, at my considerable increase of fortune through 
the financial aid I had given to two States, one of which 
after a long and exhaustive war had conquered and 
annexed the other. 

" My position (if you recollect) at the close of this 
adventure was that without having spent any money 
of my own I was now receiving permanently and for 
ever a very large yearly revenue set aside from the 
taxes of both States. 

Not a man reaped or dug or carried heavy water 
jars under the hot sun, not a man groomed a horse or 
bent under the weight of a pack, not a man added brick 
to brick or mixed mortar, not a man did any useful 
act from one end of the State to the other, but some 
part of his toil was done for me, and this state of 
affairs was, as I have said, as fixed and permanent 
as human things can be. 

I was therefore what even financiers call well-to-do ; 
one way with another I was now worth perhaps twenty 
million pieces of gold : but that is but guess work, 
it may have been twenty-five. 




You might imagine that I would have been 
content from that day onwards to repose in my 

" I might well have been tempted to do so, for to 
that opulence was added a singular and fervid popu 
larity. I was alluded to in public and private as the 
man who had saved the State by his financial genius 
during the Great War. Even the conquered remem 
bered me gratefully for the aid I had extended to them 
in their need ; while since I could not satisfy my 
personal desires without at least feeding a great host of 
dancers, bearers, artists, my kindness in affording 
employment was universally recognized ; moreover 
(since among these people wealth is a test of great 
ness) I was admitted to their Senate without the usual 
formality of a cash payment. 

" The world was now indeed at my feet. But you 
must know," continued Mahmoud with something of 
sadness in his voice, you must know, my dear, 
innocent lads, that wealth will not stop still. The 
mere administration of a great fortune tends to increase 
it, and when one has for years found one s occupation 
in the accumulation of money, it is difficult in middle 
age to abandon the rooted habit. Therefore, though I 
now had all that life could give me, I proceeded hence 
forward for many years to increase that substance 
with which the Mercy of Allah had provided me ; 
and I discovered at the outset of this new career that 
to be the financier I had become, and to have behind 
me the resources which I now possessed, made my 
further successes a matter not of hazard but of certi 
tude. Shall I briefly tell you the various ways in 
which my efforts proceeded ? 

" Pray, pray do so," said his little nephews with 


sparkling eyes, each imagining himself in the dazzling 
position of his wealthy relative. 

" Very well," sighed Mahmoud. " It will be of little 
use to any of you ; but if it does no more than confirm 
you in your religion what I have to tell you will not 
have been told in vain." 

The merchant was silent for a moment, and then 
began the category of his financial proceedings : 

" Neighbouring States which had heard of the 
powerful new methods I had introduced would approach 
me from time to time for financial assistance. To 
these I made the same invariable reply, that upon 
certain terms, which I myself would fix, I was content 
to float their loans ; that is, the rich men of their 
country (or of any other) should pay into my office 
the sums they were prepared to lend to such a State, 
and I would pay back a part, but not the whole, of 
the amount so accumulated to the State in question. 
The enormous service I rendered by allowing my office 
to be used for this transaction was everywhere recog 
nized, and by such operations my fortunes proceeded 
to grow. 

It was at this moment in my career that I married 
my wife, your dear aunt, who generally resides, as you 
know, in that one of my country palaces called Dar-al- 
Beida on the banks of the Tigris some four days 
journey from here. It is a delightful spot which I 
remember well though I have not seen it for years. 
. . . Some day, perhaps, I will visit it again, but not 
to sleep. 

Your dear aunt was, and is, my boys, a most 
remarkable woman : fit to compete with the master 
spirits of our time : yea ! even with my own. 

" Her birth I need not conceal it was humble. 


She was but a chance hireling in my offices, with the 
duty of sorting my papers and keeping indices of the 

Such was her interest in affairs that she was at the 
pains to take copies and tracings of many particularly 
private and important passages with her own hand, 
and keep these by her in a private place. I was struck 
beyond measure at such industry and preoccupation 
with business on the part of a woman (and one so poor !) 
I conceived an ardent desire to possess these specimens 
of her skill ; but to my astonishment, and (at first) 
confusion she humbly replied that a profound though 
secret affection which she had conceived for me forbade 
her to part with these precious souvenirs of myself. 
I was so absorbed in their pursuit that, rather than 
lose them, I married this Queen of Finance recognizing 
in her an equal genius with my own. Our wedding was 
of the simplest. I took comfort from the considera 
tion that it proved me superior to all the nobles of 
the court and indifferent to an alliance with their 

" Immediately after the wedding my wife, your dear 
aunt, asked me for money wherewith to travel, a 
request I readily granted. She traversed for her 
pleasure I knew not what foreign lands, always, and 
gladly, furnished with the wherewithal from my 
cash box ; but on my returning later to Bagdad, my 
native place, she unexpectedly appeared at my door, 
and I was happy to build for her that country Palace 
of Dar-al-Beida to the charm of which I have alluded. 
Unfortunately its air suits me ill, while she (your dear 
aunt) suffocates in the atmosphere of Bagdad. It is 
often thus in old age. ..." 

Mahmoud mused and continued : 


" But let us return to my further activities in that 
far land : 

" I next designed a scheme whereby every form of 
human misfortune, fire, disease, paralysis, madness, 
and the rest, might be alleviated to the sufferer by the 
payment of regular sums of money upon the advent of 
the disaster ; weekly sums for his support if he were 
rendered infirm or ill, a lump sum to replace whatever 
he might have totally lost, and so forth. A short and 
easy survey of the average number of times in which 
such accidents took place permitted me to establish my 
system. I charged for 100 dinars worth of such insur 
ance no dinars, and my benevolence was praised even 
more highly than my ingenuity. 

Men flocked in thousands, and at last in millions, 
to secure themselves from the uncertainty of human life 
by giving me of their free will more money in regular 
payments than I could by any accident be compelled 
to pay out to any one of them upon his reaching old 
age, his suffering from fire, or his contraction of an 
illness. Nay, death itself at last entered into this 
design, and having found that young men just of 
age live upon the average for forty years, I asked 
them to pay for their heirs annual sums calculated 
as though that period were thirty, and thus I 
continued to accumulate wealth from a perennial 

But why," began one of his nephews excitedly. . . . 

" Why what ? asked his uncle, severely. 

Why," said the poor lad, a little abashed by his 
uncle s tone, why did they pay you more for a thing 
than it was worth ? 

Mahmoud stroked his long white beard and looked up 
sideways towards the highly decorated vault of the 


gorgeous apartment. He remained thus plunged in 
thought for perhaps thirty seconds, and when he broke 
the silence it was to say that he did not know. " But 
no matter- he added hurriedly. I paid for a law 
which compelled all slaves to insure and so was certain 
of a fixed revenue in this kind. 

And I had many other resources," he continued 
cheerily. f If those who had made many such regular 
payments to me to insure against death, old age, 
disease, and the rest, happened to fall into an em 
barrassed condition and to need a loan, I was always 
ready to advance them their own money again at 
interest, nor did I ever find them unwilling to sub 
scribe the bond. Further I urged and tempted many 
to fall into arrears and so possessed myself of all they 
had paid in. The vast sums paid to me in these various 
fashions were sometimes too great for investment 
within the State, and I had to look further afield. 
But here again by the Mercy of Allah suggestions of 
the most lucrative sort perpetually occurred to my 
religious soul. 

Not infrequently I would lay out a million or two 
in the purchase of a great estate situated at some 
distance which, when I had acquired it, I would declare 
to be packed with gold, silver, diamonds, copper, salt, 
and china clay beneath the earth, and on its surface 
loaded with red pepper and other most precious fruits. 
I have no doubt these estates were often of a promising 
nature, though travellers have assured me that some 
were mere desert ; in one case, to my certain know 
ledge, the estate did not even exist. But it really 
mattered little whether I spoke truly or falsely with 
regard to such ventures, for my method of dealing 
with them made them, whether they were of trifling 


value or of more, invariably profitable to many besides 
myself and a blessing to the whole State." 

" But, uncle," interjected another nephew, " how 
could that be ? " 

" You will easily see," said Mahmoud with a pitying 
smile, " when you hear the sequel. I was not so selfish 
as to retain these properties in my own hands. I 
would offer them to the public for sale, and being in a 
position to pay many poets, scribes, and public story 
tellers who should make general the praises of the 
estates in question, an active competition among 
many thousands would arise to become part purchasers. 
In the presence of this competition the price of a share, 
or part property, would rise ; those who had bought 
early would sell later to others at a profit, and these 
to others again at a further profit still ; an active 
buying and selling of these part properties in my 
ventures thus became a fixed habit in the intelligent 
people of the place, and those who w r ere left ultimately 
the possessors of the actual estates in question, whether 
real or imaginary, were only the more foolish and 
ignorant of the population. Their agonized denounce 
ment of my judgment (as they wandered from one 
to another attempting to dispose of their bad bargains) 
was, of course, treated with contempt by the run of 
able men who remembered the profits of the share 
market at the inception of the business. On this 
account it was possible for me to continue indefinitely 
to present for sale to the public every species of venture 
which I might feel inclined to put before them : the 
intelligent and successful were ever my applauders ; 
the unfortunate and despised alone decried me. And 
these were, on account of my operations, so poor, and 
therefore of so little significance in the State, that I 



rarely thought it worth while to pay the authorities 
for their imprisonment or death. 

Within ten years there were no bounds to my 
possessions. It was currently said that I myself had no 
conception of their magnitude, and I admit this was 
true. From time to time I would pay enormous sums 
to endow a place of learning, to benefit the Ministers 
of my own Religion (and its antagonists), or to propa 
gate by means of an army of public criers some insigni 
ficant opinion peculiar to myself or my wife, your dear 
aunt whose strong views upon the wearing of green 
turbans by Hadjis and the illumination of the Koran 
in red ink are doubtless familiar to you. 

I would also put up vast buildings to house the 
aged indigent whose name began with an A, or others 
wherein could be set to useful labour the aged indigent 
who were blind of one eye. 

I erected, endowed and staffed an immense estab 
lishment, standing in its own park-like grounds, wherein 
was taught and proved the true doctrine that gold and 
silver are but dross and that learning is the sole good ; 
and yet others in which it was proved with equal 
certitude that learning, like all mundane things, is 
dust and only an exact knowledge of the Sacred Text 
worth having. But the Professors of this last science 
demanded double pay, urging (with sense, I thought) 
first that any fool could talk at large but that it took 
hard work to study manuscripts ; second that only half 
a dozen men knew the documents exhaustively and 
that if they were under-rated they would stand aside 
and wreck the enterprise with their savage critiques. 

Meanwhile I devised in my leisure time an amusing 
instrument of gain called The Cream Separator. 
I paid my wretched Sultan and his Court for a law, to 


be imposed, compelling all men, under pain of torture, 
to reveal their revenues from farming or any other 
reputable trade, but taking no account of gambling 
and juggling as being unimportant and too difficult 
to follow. I next paid another sum to the writers 
and spouters and other starvelings to denounce all 
who objected. For less than double this sum I 
bought a new law which swept away all the surplus 
of the better farmers and other reputable men into 
a general fund and paid out their cruel loss, partly in 
little doles to the very poor, but partly also (for 
fair play s a jewel) in added stipends to the very rich 
with posts at Court : the Lord High Conjurer I especi 
ally favoured. Thus did I establish a firm friendship 
with the masses and with their governors and, I am glad 
to say, destroyed the middle sort who are a very dull, 
greasy, humdrum lot at the best, rightly detested by 
their betters as apes and by their inferiors as immediate 

And on all this I took my little commission. . . . 

" My children ! . . . My children! . . ."ended the 
old man, his eyes now full of frigid tears, " I had 
attained the summit of Human Life. I had all ... 
and there descended upon me what wealth supreme 
wealth alone can give : the Strong Peace of the 

His tears now flowed freely, and his nephews 
were touched beyond measure to see such emotion in 
one so great. 

It is," he continued (with difficulty from his rising 
emotion), " it is wealth and wealth alone, wealth superior 
to all surrounding wealth, that can procure for man that 
equal vision of the world, that immense tolerance of 
evil, that unfailing hope for the morrow, and that 


profound content which furnish for the heart of man 
its resting place." 

Here the millionaire frankly broke down. He 
covered his face in his hands and his sobs were echoed 
by those of his respectful nephews, with the exception 
of the third with whom they degenerated into hiccoughs. 

Mahmoud raised his strong, old, tear-stained features, 
dried his eyes and asked them (since his tale was now 
done) whether they had any questions to ask. 

After a long interval the eldest spoke : 

" Oh ! My revered uncle," said he, in an awe 
struck voice, if I may make so bold . . . why did 
you leave this place of your power and return to 
Bagdad ? " 

His uncle was silent for a space and then replied 
in slow and measured words : 

" It was in this wise. A sort of moral distemper a 
mysterious inward plague struck the people among 
whom I dwelt. The poor, in spite of their increased 
doles, seemed to grow mysteriously disinclined for work. 
The rich and especially those in power fell (I know 
not why !) into habits of self-indulgence. The middle 
class, whom I had so justly destroyed, were filled in 
their ruin with a vile spite and rancour. As they still 
commanded some remaining power of expression by pen 
and voice they added to the great ill ease. One evening 
an awful thing happened. A large pebble one may 
almost call it a stone was flung through the open 
lattice of my banqueting- room and narrowly missed the 
Deputy Head Controller who stood behind the couch 
where I reclined at the head of my guests. 

" It was a warning from Heaven. Next day I began 
with infinite precautions to realize. I knew that, for 
some hidden reason, the country was poisoned. Parcel by 


parcel, lot by lot, I disposed of my lands, my shares in 
enterprises, my documents of mortgage and loan. By 
messengers I transferred this wealth to purchases in the 
plains about Bagdad, my native place ; on the Tigris ; 
Bonds upon the Houses of Mosul and mills on the farm 
colonies of the Persian hills : in Promises to Pay signed 
by the Caliph and in the admitted obligations of the 
Lords of Bosra and the Euphrates. 

An Inner Voice said to me, Mahmoud, you have 
achieved the Peace of the Soul. Do not risk it longer 
here. . . . 

" When all my vast fortune was so transferred to 
Mesopotamia, I went down by a month s journey to 
the sea-coast, took ship, and sailed up the gulf for 
the home of my childhood. . . . 

I was but just in time ! Within a week of my 
departure an insolent message was received by the 
Sultan of my former habitation from the Robber King 
of the Hills demanding tribute. In vain did the unfor 
tunate man plead his progress in the arts, his magnifi 
cent national debt, the high wages of his artisans and 
their happy leisure, the refinement and luxury of his 
nobles not even their hot baths and their change of 
clothes three times a day could save them ! The 
cruel barbarian conqueror over-ran the whole place, 
sacked the capital, confiscated the land, annulled all 
deeds, imposed a fearful tribute, and had I left one 
copper coin in the country (which happily I had not), 
it would have been lost to me for ever. 

But by the time these dreadful things were taking 
place I was safe here in Bagdad it was about the time 
the eldest of you was born. I purchased this site, 
built the Palace where you do me the honour of attend 
ing me (and also that of Dar-al-Beida for my wife, 


your dear aunt, four days away) and have now lived 

serenely into old age, praising and blessing God. 

My dear nephews, I have no more to tell. You have 
now heard how industry in itself is nothing if it is not 
guided and sustained by Providence, but you have 
doubtless also perceived that the best fortune which 
Heaven (here the old man bowed his head reverently) 
can bestow upon a mortal is useless indeed unless 
he supplement its grace by his own energy and self- 
discipline. I must warn you in closing that any efforts 
of your own to tread in the path I have described 
would very probably end in your suffering upon the 
market place of the city that ignominous death which 
furnishes in the public executions such entertainment 
to the vulgar. If, indeed, you can pass the first stages 
of your career without suffering anything more fatal 
than the bastinado you might reach at last some such 
great position as I occupy. Indeed," mused the kindly 
old man, " Hareb, my junior partner, and Muktahr, 
whom you have heard called The Camel King/ have 
each been bastinadoed most severely in the past, 
when their operations were upon a smaller scale. . . . 
But we are content to forget such things. 

I have no more to tell you. Work as hard as you 
possibly can, live soberly and most minutely by rule, 
and so long as any dregs of strength remain to you 
struggle to retain some small part of the product of 
your labour for the support of yourselves and your 
families. The rest will, in the natural course of things, 
find its way into the hands of men like myself. . . . 
And now depart with my benediction. But, stay," 
he said, as though a thought had struck him, 
cannot let you go without a little present for each. 



So saying, the kindly old man went to a cupboard 
of beautiful inlaid work, and drawing from it seven 
dried figs in the last stages of aridity and emaciation, 
he presented one to each of his nephews, who received 
the gift with transports of gratitude and affection. 

Just as they were about to take their leave the 
youngest boy (a child, it will be remembered, of but 
tender years), approached his uncle with a beautiful 
mixture of humility and love, and bringing out a 
paper which he had secreted in the folds of his 
tunic, begged the merchant to sign his name in it 
and date it too, as a souvenir of these delightful 

With all my heart, my little fellow," said Mahmoud, 
patting him upon the head and reflecting that such 
good deeds cost nothing and are their own reward. 

This done, the boys departed. 


Next morning, on Mahmoud sending a slave to his 
cashier for the sum required to pay a band of Kurdish 
Torturers whom he desired to hire for his debtors 
prison, he was annoyed to receive the reply that there 
was no cash immediately available, a large draft 
signed by him having been presented that very morn 
ing and duly honoured. As the sum was considerable, 
and as the payment had been made but a few moments 
before, the cashier begged his master to wait for half 
an hour or so until more metal could be procured from a 
neighbouring deposit. 

It was in vain that Mahmoud searched his memory 
for the signature of any such instrument. He was 
puzzled and suspected a forgery. At last he deter 
mined that the paper should be sent for and put before 
him. There, sure enough, was his signature ; but 


the sum of 20,000 dinars therein mentioned was in 
another and most childish hand. Then did it suddenly 
break upon the great Captain of Industry that the 
tiny child, his youngest nephew, who had asked for his 
autograph as a souvenir, was not wholly unworthy of 
the blood which he had collaterally inherited. . . . 
He wrote to the boy s father and secured the little 
fellow s services as office-boy at nothing-a-week. He 
watched his developing talent, and was not disap 
pointed. Long before the lad was full grown he had 
got every clerk of the great business house into his 
debt and had successfully transferred to his own 
secret hiding-place the savings of the porter, the 
carrier and the aged widow who cleaned the place 
of a morning. By his seventeenth year he had brought 
off a deal in fugitive slaves, taking equal amounts 
from the culprits for hiding and from the masters for 
betraying them. By his eighteenth he had control 
of a public bath where clients were watched by spies 
and thus furnished a source of ample revenue. Before 
he was of age he had astonished and delighted his now 
more than octogenarian uncle by selling him, under a 
false name and through a man of straw, a ship due 
to arrive at Bosra, but, as a fact, sunk off Bushire 
five days before. 

In every way he showed himself worthy of his 
uncle s confirmed reliance on his commercial prowess. 
When the lad came of age, the Venerable Mahmoud 
gave a feast of unexampled splendour which fore 
shadowed his intentions. 

For, indeed, but a month later, the old man began to 
fail, and in a few weeks more was warned by his 
physicians of approaching death. He summoned 
scribes to his bed, dictated in a firm voice his Will, 


wherein (after reciting provision already made 
under heavy pressure for his wife) he left to the 
youngest nephew the whole of his wealth, saying 
with his last breath, Allah ! Creator and Lord ! 
Lest the Talent should fall into unworthy hands ! 

Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner, Frome and London 





By SIR HARRY JOHNSTON. 8s. 6d. net. 







By SHANE LESLIE. A Story of Eton. 8s. 6d. net. 


By BEVERLEY NICHOLS. 7s. 6d. net. 


By CATHERINE CARSWELL. 7s. 6d. net. 


By ALDOUS HUXLEY. 6s. net. 

Author of CROME YELLOW. 

Messrs. CHATTO & WINDUS will be pleased to send their Complete 
List of New Books free on application to 97, 99 ST. MARTIN S LANE,